Article brought to you by: Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Mississippi toddler cured of HIV: Gives doctors new hopes of eradicating AIDS

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
March 4th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The news is very exciting in a world where AIDS and HIV devastates much of Africa and parts of Asia. Doctors at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Atlanta have reported success of curing a two-and-a-half year old child with HIV. The child has repeatedly tested negative for the virus that causes AIDS after a year without medication.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - It's the first time such a case has been documented. The unidentified child, whose name and sex has not been released, but was born in Mississippi now has a normal life expectancy and is highly unlikely to be infectious to others, doctors believe.

It's not yet known why the treatment was effective. The surprise success has raised hopes that the therapy might ultimately help doctors eradicate the virus among newborns.

"Now, after at least one year of taking no medicine, this child's blood remains free of virus even on the most sensitive tests available," Dr. Hannah Gay, who cared for the child at the University of Mississippi medical center said. Gay added that a patient is functionally cured of HIV when standard tests are negative for the virus. She noted that it is likely that a tiny amount remains in their body.

"We expect that this baby has great chances for a long, healthy life. We are certainly hoping that this approach could lead to the same outcome in many other high-risk babies," she added.

Women with HIV are given antiretroviral drugs during pregnancy to minimize the amount of virus in their blood. Their newborns go on courses of drugs too, to reduce their risk of infection further. The strategy can stop around 98 percent of HIV transmission from mother to child. The number of babies born with HIV in developed countries has fallen dramatically overt he past several years.

In both the U.K. and Ireland, around 1,200 children are living with HIV they picked up in the womb, during birth, or while being breastfed. If an infected mother's placenta is healthy, the virus tends not to cross into the child earlier in pregnancy. The virus can be transferred in labor and delivery.

In sub-Saharan Africa, however, around 387,500 children aged 14 and under were receiving antiretroviral therapy in 2010. Many were born with the infection. Nearly two million more children of the same age in the region are in need of the drugs.

In the Mississippi case, the mother was unaware she had HIV until after a standard test came back positive while she was in labor. "She was too near delivery to give even the dose of medicine that we routinely use in labor. So the baby's risk of infection was significantly higher than we usually see," Gay said.

Doctors began treating the baby aggressively 30 hours after birth. The doctor opted for the more aggressive treatment because the mother had not received any during her pregnancy.

Several days later, blood drawn from the baby before treatment started showed the child was infected, probably shortly before birth. The doctors continued with the drugs and expected the child to take them for life.

However - after a month of starting therapy, the level of HIV in the baby's blood had fallen so low that routine lab tests failed to detect it.

The mother and child stopped taking their regularly scheduled medical appointments. The child had no medication from the age of 18 months, and did not see doctors again until it was nearly two years old.

"We did not see this child at all for a period of about five months," Gay said. "When they did return to care aged 23 months, I fully expected that the baby would have a high viral load . All of the tests came back negative, very much to my surprise," she said.

Article brought to you by: Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)