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Second baby free of HIV virus raises hopes

The hope that newborns can be ‘cured’ of HIV with early, aggressive drug treatment has been bolstered with the announcement that a second baby appears to be free of the virus following therapy that began just four hours after her birth. [s]Health Daily News[/s] reports that according to researchers at the [b]Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections[/b] in Boston, the child, born at [b]Miller Children’s Hospital[/b] in Long Beach, California, is now 9 months old and is considered HIV-negative. The first baby apparently cured by early drug therapy – the so-called ‘Mississippi baby’ – is now more than 3 years old and also remains free of HIV infection, said [b]Dr Deborah Persaud, an Associate Professor of Paediatrics in the division of infectious diseases at Johns Hopkins Children's Centre[/b] in Baltimore. The report says a US government-funded clinical trial will start within a couple of months to arrive at a more scientific assessment of the treatment. In the trial, as many as 60 babies who are born with HIV will be put on an antiretroviral drug regimen within 48 hours of birth. The results of the trial could change the way doctors treat HIV-infected newborns, altering thinking that up until now has favoured caution because these drugs can be extremely toxic, the report says.

SA’s [b]Professor Salim Abdool Karim[/b] told [s]City Press[/s] that the evidence that the baby is cured, is inconclusive because ‘the baby is still on ARV treatment which could be the reason why the virus has been suppressed to such a point that it is undetectable’. He is quoted as saying: ‘HIV is a clever and tricky virus. It has the ability to hide in cells making people think that it is no longer in the system only to pop up years later. In this case, the baby would have to stop taking antiretrovirals and tests would have to be conducted before we can confidently say she is functionally cured.’

Some of the results that impressed were from a study showing that ARVs send the virus into hiding in adults' blood, preventing transmission. [s]The Times[/s] reports that the study followed 767 couples where only one partner was HIV-positive and the other negative. Not one negative person contracted HIV from their partners, although some contracted the virus from other people outside the relationship. The key finding, the report says, was that all the HIV-positive people had undetectable viral loads – when the virus cannot be detected because it is not replicating. It usually takes about six months of ARV treatment to make the virus undetectable, said disease expert [b]Kevin Rebe[/b]. ‘Results from the study show being on treatment is so effective that it even works to prevent transmission when people have higher risk s exual behaviour such as ana l s ex,’ Rebe said. ‘This study shows we need to get more people on successful ARV treatment,’ said [b]Wits Professor Francesca Conradie[/b] from Boston.
[link url=http://www.philly.com/philly/health/topics/HealthDay685564_20140306_Doctors_Cautiously_Optimistic_About__Cure__for_HIV-Infected_Babies.html]Full Health Day News report [/link]
[link url=https://www.hopkinschildrens.org/Child-Born-with-HIV-Still-in-Remission-after-18-Months-off-Treatment.aspx]Research[/link]
[link url=http://www.citypress.co.za/news/hiv-clever-tricky-virus-sa-scientist-warns-news-cured-us-baby]Full City Press report [/link]
[link url=http://www.timeslive.co.za/thetimes/2014/03/07/hope-for-cure-in-hiv-baby]Full report in The Times [/link]

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