Should we get excited or wait with hopeful optimism?
Doctors announced on Sunday that a baby had been cured of an H.I.V. infection for the first time, a startling development that could change how infected newborns are treated and sharply reduce the number of children living with the virus that causes AIDS.
The baby, born in rural Mississippi, was treated aggresively with antiretroviral drugs starting around 30 hours after birth, something that is not usually done. If further study shows this works in other babies, it will almost certainly change the way newborns of infected mothers are treated all over the world.
If the report is confirmed, the child born in Mississippi would be only the second well-documented case of a cure in the world, giving a boost to research aimed at a cure, something that only a few years ago was thought to be virtually impossible.
Dr. Persaud said there was also little doubt that the child experienced what she called a “functional cure.” Now 2½ , the child has been off drugs for a year with no sign of functioning virus.
Certain outside experts questions whether or not the child was truly infected with the HIV virus or if this is just another case of prevention, which is a procedure already in place for babies of infected mothers. However, Dr. Persaud claims to be certain that the baby was in fact truly infected with the virus.
If the data is correct, this could truly revolutionize treatment of HIV in babies and might even help us to find a definitive cure for HIV and AIDS further down the line. Hopeful optimism is warranted.
Addition: From Smithsonian blog:
After starting on treatment, the baby’s immune system responded and tests showed diminishing levels of the virus until it was undetectable 29 days after birth. Ten months later, when the baby returned to the hospital (her mother stopped bringing her, without explanation) the researchers tested her again for HIV and found no sign of the virus. It appeared she had been functionally cured.
Of course, a cure for HIV is a huge claim, and some outside researchers are still waiting for more information before they celebrate.