A second baby born with HIV has been brought into remission through early antiretroviral treatment (ART). After receiving a positive blood test for HIV, the baby girl from California was immediately administered high doses of AZT, 3TC and nevirapine. Now a year old, the child is apparently HIV-free.
The case follows the discovery last year of an HIV-positive infant — dubbed the ‘Mississippi baby’ — who was also brought into remission following treatment upon birth (ART was stopped two years ago and the child remains virus-free).
After the announcement of the California baby at an AIDS conference in March, paediatrics specialist Dr Deborah Persaud (pictured) said: “This is a call to action for us to mobilise and to be able to learn from these cases.” Dr Persaud was keen to point out that, as the California baby continues to receive ART, it is incorrect to call her ‘cured’. Rather, Persaud describes the baby as having “sero-reverted to HIV-negative” as no trace of the virus can be found in the baby’s blood or tissues.
A clinical trial in which up to 60 HIV-infected babies will be put on drugs within 48 hours of birth is due to begin shortly. It will take several years, however, to determine whether that trial is successful. For now, the California baby offers more credible evidence that starting ART at birth seemingly kills HIV.
Meanwhile, an HIV-positive adult female has also responded encouragingly to early treatment. Since the woman was put on ART, scientists can find no traces of the virus in her blood cells. “The data emerging on very early treatment — curing early infection — those are promising leads," said Persaud.
BY CHRISTOPHER KELLY