Second Success Raises Hope For A Way To Rid Babies of H.I.V.
The New York Times – When scientists made the stunning announcement last year that a baby born with H.I.V. had apparently been cured through aggressive drug treatment just 30 hours after birth, there was immediate skepticism that the child had ever been infected in the first place.
But on Wednesday the existence of a second such baby was revealed at an AIDS conference here, leaving little doubt that the treatment had worked. A leading researcher said there might be five more such cases in Canada and three in South Africa.
And a clinical trial in which 50 babies who are born infected will be put on drugs within 48 hours is set to begin within three months, the researcher added.
If that trial works – and it will take several years of following the babies to determine whether it has – the protocol for treating all the roughly 300,000 babies born infected each year will no doubt change.
The second baby – a girl born in Long Beach, Calif. – is now 9 months old and apparently free of the virus that causes AIDS.
Pediatricians at Miller Children’s Hospital in Long Beach had heard of the first baby, born to a mother in Mississippi with advanced AIDS who had not taken any drugs to protect the fetus. The California doctors tried to replicate that first treatment.
They immediately gave the baby three antiretroviral drugs — AZT, 3TC and nevirapine — at the higher doses normally used for treatment rather than for prevention, and never previously recommended for newborns.
It would be wrong to describe the Long Beach baby as “cured” or as “in remission” because she is still on antiretroviral drugs, said Dr. Deborah Persaud, a virus specialist at the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center who has been involved in both cases. She describes the baby as “sero-reverted to H.I.V.-negative.”
The baby was treated nine hours after being born – as soon as her first H.I.V. test came up positive – and now even ultrasensitive tests can find no virus in her blood or any tissues.
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