At a major meeting on AIDS in Atlanta on Sunday, scientists claim that a baby born 2 1/2 years ago in Mississippi has been cured of HIV.
The mother of the baby had no prenatal care when she arrived at a rural emergency room in advanced labor. A quick test revealed that the mother was infected with HIV. The standard operating procedure in this case is for doctors to administer low-dose medication in hopes of preventing HIV from taking root in the newborn’s body. The hospital in question didn’t have the typical liquid meds used, so they sent the infant to a better-equipped medical center. This is when Dr. Hannah Gay, a pediatric HIV specialist, acted quickly with a different plan.
Gay provided this baby with a much faster and stronger treatment than usual even before the baby was confirmed to have been infected. Gay stated, “I just felt like this baby was at higher-than-normal risk, and deserved our best shot.” The child responded well through the age of 18 months, when the family temporarily halted treatment. When they returned months later, tests revealed no traces of the virus.
The approach Gay used is believed to have knocked out HIV in the baby’s blood before it could form hideouts in the body. This provides hope for researchers that they may have a new avenue in the fight against the disease. In the U.S., these births are very rare because testing and treatment have, for many years now, been part of prenatal care procedures. In 2011, it’s estimated that nearly 300,000 babies were born with HIV, with most of these cases coming from poor nations.
Many highly specialized tests were done on the child at various laboratories. The only thing found was genetic material that doesn’t appear capable of replication. Gay continues checking up on the child, while the mother’s HIV is being controlled with medications.