In 2010, a newborn infant in Mississippi was diagnosed with HIV infection. Her mother was in the advance stages of the disease AIDS but had not taken any medications during pregnancy to lessen the chance of passing the virus to her baby. Instead of the standard preventive treatment drugs normally given to babies with the HIV virus, the Mississippi Baby (as she’s known to the scientific community) received an aggressive treatment with three drugs commonly given to adults with HIV.
Last year, the baby—who is no longer on these medications—seemed to be free of the HIV virus. Her case was so unusual that researchers wondered if the baby really hadn’t been infected by HIV at all.
Then a second HIV-infected baby, in California, received the same three drugs and appears to be free of the virus. Again the baby was born to a mother who was in advanced stages of AIDS and who had not taken medications consistently during pregnancy. More cases of newborns being “cured” by this method may exist in Canada and South Africa.
The concept itself of “curing” a baby of HIV is in its own infancy. Scientists would not consider these babies actually cured until treatment stops and the babies remain free of from the HIV virus for a number of years. So clinicians use phrases like “virus-free,” “sero-converted negative,” or “remission” rather than “cured.”
If these babies are truly cured, the treatment recommendation will massively change. The current treatment regimen calls for giving newborns two anti-HIV drugs at lower doses for six weeks if a baby has been exposed in the womb. The medications are continued for a period of time even in babies who’s first sets of HIV tests are negative and are continued for the life of the baby if they test positive.
Under the new regimen, the babies were immediately treated with AZT, 3TC and nevirapine at higher doses than normally prescribed for infants, risking toxicity but theoretically aggressively attacking the virus before before the HIV virus has time to create “reservoirs” throughout the body. A small study is set to begin in the next several months that will formally test the new medication combination in 60 infants. If it works, this could be an amazing medical breakthrough for the tens of thousands of infants born each year infected with the virus.
- The New York Times
- Second success raises hope for a way to rid babies of HIV.
- HIV Baby Taken Off Antiretrovirals in Remission.
- AIDS baby cured.
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