Child Born with HIV Still 'Cured' After 18 Months Off Treatment

First Posted: Oct 24, 2013 08:06 AM EDT

There's at least one child who seems to have beaten HIV. A three-year-old who was born with HIV and treated with a combination of antiviral drugs unusually early continues to do well and has remained free of active infection for 18 months after all treatment ceased. The latest revelation spells hope for children to be treated for this disease in the future.

"Our findings suggest that this child's remission is not a mere fluke but the likely result of aggressive and very early therapy that may have prevented the virus from taking a hold in the child's immune cells," said Deborah Persaud, one of the researchers, in a news release.

The child was born to a HIV-infected mother three years ago. A mere 30 hours after birth, the baby began a combination anti-retroviral treatment. This seemed to do the trick; tests over the course of days and weeks after the child's birth showed progressively diminishing viral presence in the infant's blood. In fact, a mere 29 days after birth showed near undetectable levels of the virus. The child remained on the antivirals until 18 months of age. After returning 10 months after treatment, the researchers couldn't find the virus in the child's blood.

"Prompt antiviral therapy in newborns that begins within hours or days of exposure may help infants clear the virus and achieve long-term remission without the need for lifelong treatment by preventing such viral hideouts from forming in the first place," said Deborah Persaud, lead author of the new paper, in a news release.

In fact, the new findings are important for showing that, in fact, this virus can be beaten in children. This particular case provides compelling evidence that HIV-infected infants can achieve viral remission if anti-retroviral therapy begins within hours or days of infection. Currently, researchers plan to begin a federally funded study in 2014 to further test this early-treatment method.

That said, the researchers are quick to emphasize that despite the promise of these new findings, preventing mother-to-child transmission is still a priority. The approach is still preliminary and future studies are needed before it's confirmed how effective this treatment is and when it should be used.

The findings are published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

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