Baby apparently cured of HIV could change way newborn cases are treated

POSTED: Tuesday, March 5, 2013 - 10:00am

UPDATED: Tuesday, March 5, 2013 - 10:00am

The case of a Mississippi baby reportedly "cured" of her HIV infection has fascinated experts, and although they stop short of calling it a true cure aids researchers say this could be the beginning of one.

Thanks to good prenatal care and routine HIV testing of pregnant women in the U.S. cases of HIV transmissions from a mother to her newborn baby are rare, less than 200 a year.

"In the developing world there's a thousand infections of infants from their mothers per day, so that's a real serious problem," notes Dr. Anthony Fauci.

That's one of the reasons the world has turned its attention to Jackson, Mississippi doctor Hannah Gay.

In 2010 Dr. Gay decided to treat a newborn baby right away with three HIV drugs before waiting for test results that eventually confirmed the baby had been infected.

The treatment decision was based on the baby's high risk for infection.

Her HIV-infected mother had not received any prenatal care.

When Dr. Gay followed up with the mother a year and a half later she learned the baby had been taken off what should have been long-term treatment.

"At that point, the mom admitted she had not been giving the medicine for the past several months, and I fully expected the baby's viral load to have gone back up," Dr. Gay said.

It had not.

Thinking it was a lab mistake, Dr. Gay ordered more tests.

There was no sign of the virus in the baby.

Experts are calling this a "functional cure" and suspect the early treatment left no time for the virus to hide out in the body.

"The big caveat you've got to be careful of is that this is just a single case, and needs to be validated and seen if it can be more widely applicable," Dr. Fauci warns.

But this single case is likely to inspire new resources for pediatric research and perhaps someday a true cure for HIV infected children.

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