Last year, a HIV-infected baby from Mississippi was reported to have been “cured” after going through aggressive antiretroviral treatment 30 hours after birth. The baby’s mother had no prenatal care and did not even know that she was infected with HIV. After delivery, the doctors tested the baby’s blood and declared that she was HIV-positive, thus started her on a high dose of antiretroviral drugs for the next 18 months, which is not usually done on infants. However, the baby was cured! There was no trace of the virus’ RNA or DNA in the baby’s blood. That Mississippi child is currently 3 years old and still virus-free although she had been off the drugs for the past year. Experts state that this may be possible for infants since the treatment began long before the HIV reservoirs are developed, which is a major reason why it is very difficult to eradicate HIV from adults. Others question if the baby was even HIV-positive in the first place.
However, a second report provides more confirmation that the first case was not a hoax, a coincidence, or a mistake. A baby from Long Beach was born to an advanced AIDS and mentally ill mother, who had never taken the prescribed drugs to prevent the baby from becoming infected. After delivery, the doctors tested the baby’s blood and declared that the baby was HIV-positive. Following the protocol for the “Mississippi baby” case, the doctor ordered intensive antiretroviral therapy of three different drugs. Reports state that the DNA and RNA of the virus began to disappear 6 days after birth and became completely undetectable within 11 days. The baby is currently 9 months old and is still on antiretroviral drugs to make sure that the HIV virus has been completely eradicated.
These two cases provide major hope for the future that HIV can be eradicated in infants that are born HIV-positive. Although this cannot be said about adults since HIV tends to remain dormant in reservoirs, the virus has the possibility of being eradicated in infants since it is possible that antiretroviral treatment is started in infants before HIV reservoirs are permanently established. New studies are being planned to study this concept further. Currently, a clinical trial of 60 HIV-positive babies is being planned to begin. Similar to the two cases, these babies will be placed on aggressive antiretroviral treatment 48 hours after birth to see if they can be virus-free. If successful, this will be great evidence that you can cure anybody if treatment if started early enough! This is exciting news that we are making strides toward not only finding a potential “cure” for HIV in infants, but also a taking the next step toward bettering the welfare of infants and children.
Do you believe there is true potential for a HIV cure for infants?