Saturday, March 9, 2013

Finally an End to Infant HIV?

In a world where an estimated 300,000 newborns are delivered already infected with HIV, it is safe to say that any progress in stopping this epidemic would be considered remarkable. On March 3, 2013, it was finally announced that a young baby from Mississippi had allegedly been cured of HIV maternally transmitted while in the womb. If confirmed, this will be only the second documented cure of HIV in the entire world. Contrary to normal "prophylactic measures," this baby was immediately placed on a rigorous three-drug combination antiretroviral therapy directly following post-delivery HIV testing. Initially at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, the baby tested HIV positive for 5 tests (4 viral RNA and 1 DNA). Two blood tests ordered hours apart to ensure further reliability revealed that the baby's HIV viral levels were about "20,000 copies per milliliter."

At 1 month old, the baby's HIV levels were steadily decreasing in response to the rapid treatment. When the toddler reached 18 months, it was brought back to UMMC for further medical testing and viral assessment.  To doctors', nurses', associated staff's and the mother's great surprise, all tests returned HIV negative.
 The researchers, sponsored by amfAR, the Foundation for AIDS Research, put the baby through a battery of sophisticated tests. They found tiny amounts of some viral genetic material but no virus able to replicate, even lying dormant in so-called reservoirs in the body."

Although skeptics unfortunately question the facts of this case, it has been hypothesized by many health professionals that the virus of this child was treated in such a rapid fashion that it did not have time to manifest into these "hidden reservoirs" of the body. For those plagued with HIV, the virus typically hides in a dormant state within reservoirs and is able to resist medication. Other doctors now contest the fact that this is a true cure if the child never actually established this "hiding areas" for the virus to hide and grow. Regardless, the results of this child's case may prove of substantial importance in the innovation of future treatment of HIV and can serve as a heartwarming sense of hope for those longing for a cure.

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