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Suppressing HIV possible: How researchers helped children

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Researchers suppress HIV with early ART therapy

Researchers discussing HIV treatment at the 20th annual Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI) in Atlanta presented more findings showing HIV that causes AIDS can be suppressed in children with early therapy.

The current study presented involves nine teenagers who received antiretroviral therapy (ART) at 2 months of age. The teens were delivered by HIV positive mothers. The goal of researchers is to stop ‘reservoirs’ of the virus that can hide and lead to symptoms later in life.

Today, five the teens are living with HIV, but ultrasensitive testing shows dramatically lower DNA copies of the virus, compared to 4 teens who received treatment at a later age.

Researchers also say there was no HIV recovered from the blood of the children treated at 2 months of age. A series of tests showed DNA of HIV deteriorated over time and there were no detectable virus antibodies.

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In contrast, children treated with ART later had hidden reservoirs of HIV and detectable antibodies in the blood.

The study was led by University of Massachusetts Medical School professor and immunologist Katherine Luzuriaga, MD, and Johns Hopkins Children's Center virologist Deborah Persaud, MD shows early treatment can stop reservoirs of HIV that can re-ignite to cause symptoms of AIDS if the therapy is given early in life.

Researchers explain when antiretroviral therapy is stopped, most patients with HIV experience infection within a matter of weeks.
Luzuriaga has been studying mother to infant transmission of HIV since the disease was initially identified. Her work is focused on prevention and finding ways to halt the virus with vaccines.

“Preventing mother-to-child transmission remains our primary goal but these studies provide the impetus for further studies aimed at curing children if they do acquire infection," Luzuriaga said in a press release. The researchers presented findings earlier this week of an HIV functional cure in an infant.

March 3-6, 2013

Image credit: Bing