Is there really an HIV cure, now that a baby has been successfully treated?
U.S. researchers have reported that a Mississippi baby girl born with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, has been cured. The child was born to a mother who had tested positive for HIV only after the child was born – meaning that the child was at a high risk for infection.
Experts say that this is an historical case of a functional cure, which essentially occurs when a person achieves remission without the need for drugs and standard blood tests show no signs that the virus is active.
But is it a cure?
While most researches consider this to be a very rare and promising event, doctors are also warning people that there are still many more steps to be taken, and many more questions to be asked.
Why did this treatment work?
The treatment, which was administered very early to the child, involved the use of standard HIV drugs. Specifically, she was administered a cocktail of three HIV-fighting drugs – zidovudine (also known as AZT), lamivudine, and nevirapine – when she was just 30 hours old.
Researchers believe that using this more aggressive antiretroviral treatment so soon after her birth resulted in a more successful treatment by keeping the virus from forming hard-to-treat pools of cells known as viral reservoirs, which lie dormant and out of the reach of standard medications.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said although tools to prevent transmission of HIV to infants are available, many children are born infected. “With this case, it appears we may have not only a positive outcome for the particular child, but also a promising lead for additional research toward curing other children,” he said.
Will this cure work on other children?