A girl born with an HIV infection was pronounced cured Sunday, according to the National Institutes of Health. She was born HIV-positive in Mississippi in July 2010 and put on aggressive treatment right away. The patient is only the second person, and the first child born with the disease, to be considered cured since the disease was identified in 1980. The announcement was made at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Atlanta.
The child was born at 35 weeks; her mother had been infected with HIV but was not being treated for it, and so her baby was considered to have a high risk of exposure. Testing after two days confirmed the presence of the virus in the newborn, who was started on the standard treatment for HIV in infants—a liquid anti-retroviral treatment consisting of a combination of the anti-HIV drugs zidovudine, lamivudine, and nevirapine—at 30 hours old.
She continued to receive a similar anti-retroviral regimen after she and her mother were discharged from the hospital a week after the birth. Her viral load—the number of copies of HIV in the bloodstream, a measurement of the severity of the infection—had fallen to a low level by the 29th day. Treatment was discontinued in January 2012. Ten months later, her viral load remained undetectable, and there were no other signs of infection. Undetectable viral load is typically maintained only with continuing treatment.
“Despite the fact that research has given us the tools to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV, many infants are unfortunately still 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,” National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., said in a statement.
It remains to be seen whether this outcome can be generalized to other children, or used as the basis for treatment for patients who become infected as adults. In 2009 doctors announced a man known as the “Berlin patient” and later identified as Timothy Ray Brown had maintained an undetectable viral load despite 20 months without treatment after a bone-marrow transplant.