(RxWiki News) The first documented case of a child being cured of HIV was announced this morning. HIV is the virus that causes AIDS. Approximately 1,000 children worldwide are infected each day with HIV.
The child joins Timothy Brown, the "Berlin patient," in medical history. Brown became the first adult to be cured of HIV in 2006 after a bone marrow transplant for leukemia. The stem cells for his transplant came from a person who was born genetically immune from HIV.
In this case, the child was born with HIV in Mississippi and began receiving antiretroviral therapy immediately after birth. The child stopped receiving therapy at 18 months old and was lost to follow-up.
The child was brought back into care at 23 months old, after five months without therapy. The doctors could detect no HIV in the child's body with their tests.
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The case was described by Deborah Persaud, MD, of John Hopkins Children's Center. Dr. Persaud and Katherine Luzuriaga, of the University of Massachusetts Medical School, received a grant to document possible cases of children who had been cured of HIV.
They worked with other researchers to set up a research collaboration that focused specifically on curing HIV in babies. The child's pediatrician had heard about Dr. Persaud's work and contacted her research collaboration.
Dr. Persaud's team was able to immediately perform all the tests to confirm that the child had, in fact, been cured. The tests are all highly sensitive and designed to detect any "viral load" in a person's body. The viral load is a measure of the amount of viruses in the system.
Other tests have confirmed that the baby and the baby's mother were HIV positive at the time the baby was born.
“Given that this cure appears to have been achieved by antiretroviral therapy alone, it is also imperative that we learn more about a newborn’s immune system, how it differs from an adult’s, and what factors made it possible for the child to be cured," said Rowena Johnston, PhD, in a prepared statement. Dr. Johnston is the vice president and director of research for the American Foundation for AIDS Research, which funded Dr. Persaud's work.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 390,000 children were newly infected with HIV in 2010. But only about 23 percent of all children living with HIV are receiving treatment.
However, progress continues to be made in preventing transmission of HIV from pregnant women to their children. In 2010, the WHO reported that 48 percent of pregnant women with HIV in low- and middle-income countries received antiretroviral therapy. This percentage represents approximately 716,500 women out of 1.49 million.
Between 2009 and 2010, the WHO reports that antiretroviral therapy given to infants born to mothers with HIV increased from 32 percent to 42 percent.
The findings of the Mississippi child's cure were announced at the 2013 Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Atlanta, Georgia. The American Foundation for AIDS Research funded the collaboration that tested the child and confirmed the case.