A baby has been effectively cured of an infection of the AIDS virus, a disease that has shown itself to be frighteningly resilient in the face of human ingenuity. The virus has apparently been thwarted by a little baby and its doctors in Mississippi. The baby is the second known case of an HIV-infected human found later to be free of the virus.
It is technically a cure, but doctors are being cautious. This baby was born of an H.I.V. AIDS-infected mother and was aggressively treated with anti-retroviral drugs from early after birth. Can there be treatment lessons here? Is this a clue pointing toward ways to thwart AIDS in the general population?
Dr. Kenneth Mayer, medical research director at Fenway Health, speaks to The Takeaway from Atlanta where these results are being made public this week.
According to Mayer, the baby was born to a mother who was not aware that she was infected with H.I.V. and had not received pre-natal care of any kind. Given the circumstances, the doctor made the decision to begin aggressively treating the baby for H.I.V./AIDS within the first 30 hours of life, before knowing for sure if he or she was infected.
Mayer says there is convincing evidence that the infant was infected at the time of birth: "What sort of nailed the diagnosis was doing both RNA and DNA tests using a very sensitive technique called PCR, so that suggested that there was active virus inside the child's body at the time of delivery."
The infant is now two-years-old and tests negative for H.I.V. "It's an exciting case but there are a number of questions," Mayer says. "Can you generalize from infants to adults? Is this something that is going to be immediately relevant for adults? We don’t know the answer to that yet."
"We wouldn’t be having this discussion if the mother had been on anti-retroviral medication," According to Mayer. "The best thing we can do is have women know their H.I.V. status and take medication and that will protect the infant from becoming infected."