The two-year-old toddler, who was treated with antiretroviral drugs early in his life, no longer has “detectable levels” of HIV, even though he has not taken medication to treat the virus for 10 months.
Deborah Persaud, associate professor of infectious diseases at the John Hopkins Children’s Center, and Katherine Luzuriaga, professor of pediatrics and molecular medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, presented this groundbreaking case study at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Atlanta on Sunday.
In July 2010, the child was born prematurely in Mississippi to an HIV-infected mother who received neither antiretroviral drugs nor prenatal care, according to the study. At 30 hours of age, the infant started on liquid antiretroviral treatment, and continued similar therapy until 18 months of age. While blood tests still showed evidence of HIV after three weeks, the baby’s viral load had fallen to less than 50 copies of HIV per millimeter of blood following a month. This number declined even further last fall, after blood samples revealed “undetectable” HIV levels at less than 20 copies per millimeter.
“This case suggests that providing antiretroviral therapy within the very first few days of life to infants infected with HIV through their mothers via pregnancy or delivery may prevent HIV from establishing a reservoir, or hiding place, in their bodies and, therefore, achieve a cure for those children,” Persaud said in a statement.
With this research, doctors are better able to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV, according to Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
“It appears we may have not only a positive outcome for the particular child, but also a promising lead for additional research toward curing other children,” he said.
More research is needed to determine whether the child’s experience can be replicated in clinical trials that involve other HIV-exposed children, the study’s experts said.
Image courtesy of Flickr, AJC1