Updated on 5 March 2013
US researchers from Johns Hopkins, University of Mississippi and University of Massachusetts find a functional cure in infant HIV/AIDS
Singapore: A group of researchers from the Johns Hopkins Children's Center, the University of Mississippi Medical Center and the University of Massachusetts Medical School (all from the US) have for the first time ever, claimed to have found a "functional cure" in an HIV-infected infant. The findings may help pave the way to develop methods to eliminate HIV infection in children. The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health and by amfAR, the Foundation for AIDS Research.
While Dr Deborah Persaud, lead author of the report and virologist at the Johns Hopkins Children's Center, and Dr Katherine Luzuriaga, immunologist at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, headed the team of laboratory investigators; Dr Hannah Gay, associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Mississippi Medical Center and pediatric HIV specialist, provided treatment to the baby.
The infant described in the report was born to an HIV-infected mother and underwent remission of HIV infection after receiving antiretroviral therapy (ART) within 30 hours of birth. A series of tests showed progressively diminishing viral presence in the infant's blood, until it reached undetectable levels 29 days after birth.
The infant remained on antivirals until 18 months of age, at which point the child was lost to follow-up for a while and, the researchers say, stopped treatment. Ten months after discontinuation of treatment, the child underwent repeated standard blood tests, none of which detected HIV presence in the blood. Test for HIV-specific antibodies, which is the standard clinical indicator of HIV infection, also remained negative throughout.
The investigators say that the prompt administration of antiviral treatment likely led to this infant's cure by halting the formation of hard-to-treat viral reservoirs, which are dormant cells responsible for reigniting the infection in most HIV patients within weeks of stopping therapy.