Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Have we found a cure for HIV?

Have we found a cure for HIV? Child born with virus is now free of infection after 'miraculous' treatment

  • Child's mother was only diagnosed as HIV positive after going into labour
  • Baby was given extra-strong programme of medication to 'blast' the virus
  • This prevented the virus from taking hold in the baby's cells
  • Two years after beginning treatment, tests show no virus in the child's blood
  • Breakthrough hailed as 'major landmark' in the battle to find cure

By Anna Hodgekiss

PUBLISHED:22:32, 3 March 2013| UPDATED:01:04, 5 March 2013

Miraculous: Dr Hannah Gay, a paediatric HIV specialist at the University of Mississippi, treated the two-year-old girl who is now 'cured' of the virus

Doctors have made a landmark breakthrough in the treatment of HIV after they 'cured' a baby with the virus.

The baby girl had been infected by her mother who was diagnosed as HIV positive during labour.

Because of the high infection risk, the baby was given an accelerated programme of medication.

She received three standard HIV drugs instead of the usual one when she was just 30-hours old.

This appears to have blasted the virus into remission and prevented it from taking root in the baby's cells.

Now two-years-old, the girl from Mississipi is in remission with blood tests showing no signs that the virus is present. This is known as a 'functional cure.'

Experts say the groundbreaking development paves the way for other children to be treated before the virus takes hold.

Last night at a major AIDS meeting in Atlanta, the case was declared a major landmark in the battle to find a cure for the disease.

Study leader Dr Deborah Persaud, of Johns Hopkins Children's Centre in Baltimore, said the toddler is now free from the potentially fatal disease.

Dr Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health said: 'You could call this about as close to a cure, if not a cure, that we've seen.'

He added that the child, which is only the second patient ever recorded to have been 'cured' of AIDS, 'opens up a lot of doors' for the treatment of other children born with HIV.

The child's mother was rushed to a rural emergency room in July 2010 in advanced labour and tests showed she was HIV positive.

Because the mother had not had any treatment, doctors knew the child was at high risk of infection.

Normally, they would have given the newborn a low dose of the medication nevirapine in the hope that it would prevent the HIV from taking hold.

However the small hospital didn't have the right kind of liquid to give the treatment and so she was rushed to specialist centre run by Dr Hannah Gay, a paediatric HIV specialist at the University of Mississipi.

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