Experts say that more testing is necessary to confirm the treatments’ effectiveness, but that these results could change the way high-risk babies born with HIV are treated.
“This is a proof of concept that HIV can be potentially curable in infants,” said Dr. Deborah Persaud, a virologist at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, who presented the findings at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Atlanta.
What about Timothy Ray Brown? Is this similar situation?
The child’s story is different from the now famous case of Timothy Ray Brown, the so-called “Berlin patient,” whose HIV infection was completely eradicated through an elaborate treatment for leukemia in 2007. This treatment involved the destruction of his immune system and a stem cell transplant from a donor with a rare genetic mutation that resists HIV infection.
However, Persaud says that,”We believe this is our Timothy Brown case to spur research interest toward a cure for HIV infection in children.”
What are the next steps?
Dr. Rowena Johnston, vice president and director of research for amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research, which helped fund the study, said since antiretroviral therapy alone led to a cure, it is now “imperative that we learn more about a newborn’s immune system, how it differs from an adult’s and what factors made it possible for the child to be cured.”
But doctors are warning parents: Do not take your children off treatment to see if the virus comes back. Normally, when patients stop taking their medications, the virus does return, and treatment interruptions increase the risk that the virus will develop drug resistance.
“We don’t want that,” Dr. Gay said. “Patients who are on successful therapy need to stay on their successful therapy until we figure out a whole lot more about what was going on with this child and what we can do for others in the future.”