Johns Hopkins Doc Named One of 10 Most Important People of 2013

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Deborah Persaud should be feeling pretty great about herself by now — and deservedly so. Several months ago, she was named as one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time Magazine. And now she’s been nominated as one of the ten people who mattered in 2013 by Nature magazine. Not bad for one year!

Persaud’s accolades came about after she played a central role in the first “functional cure” of an infant who was born HIV-positive. Here’s what Nature had to say about her:

Because the mother had gone untreated for the duration of her pregnancy, [University of Mississippi’s Hannah] Gay gave the baby high doses of three antiretroviral drugs—zidovudine, lamivudine and nevirapine—within hours of birth. Tests conducted at the time showed that the baby had HIV, and the mother was told to continue the child on treatment. At one check-up, however, Gay found that the baby had not been getting her drugs for five months. Gay tested the child and found no sign of the virus.

To make sure that this was not another false signal, Gay called in Persaud and [the University of Massachusetts Medical School’s Katherine] Luzuriaga. They matched the mother’s DNA with the baby’s to be sure that she had not been switched in the hospital. They took five separate blood samples for the HIV tests and personally checked each lab result. As they ruled out alternative explanations, it looked more and more likely that the initial blast of drugs had wiped out the virus. They published a paper describing the case in November, and so far it seems to be standing up to scrutiny.

Much deserved congrats to Persaud and her colleagues!



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