And this is why science is amazing: A team of virologists and other investigators from Johns Hopkins Children’s Center, the University of Mississippi Medical Center, and the University of Massachusetts Medical School reported yesterday that they’ve achieved the first “functional cure” of HIV in an infant who was born with the disease.
The infant received high doses of antiretroviral therapy within 30 hours of birth. According to the Hopkins Hub, “the prompt administration of antiviral treatment likely led to this infant’s cure by halting the formation of hard-to-treat viral reservoirs—dormant cells responsible for reigniting the infection in most HIV patients within weeks of stopping therapy.”
The child — who was born in Mississippi — continued retroviral therapy for the first 18 months of life. During that time, the virus’ presence in the child’s blood was detected at increasingly small levels, until it became undetectable 29 days after birth. When the child “was lost to follow-up for a while” at 18 months old (and thus stopped receiving treatment), the researchers got nervous — but when the child showed up again 10 months later, the blood tests once again showed no HIV presence in the blood.
“Our next step is to find out if this is a highly unusual response to very early antiretroviral therapy or something we can actually replicate in other high-risk newborns,” says Hopkins virologist Deborah Persaud, the lead author of the report.