Scientists at Johns Hopkins have managed to repeat what is now known as one of the biggest medical breakthroughs – they have cured the second baby born to an HIV-positive mother.
This news was announced during a Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Boston.
On March 5th, 2014, the doctors announced that they have been able to clear the virus from another baby, infected with HIV from a mother with advanced AIDS, who had not been taking any medication. The agressive treatment was started just 4 hours after the girl was born and the virus was already undetectable in 11 days. Usually, aggressive treatment is not used until the doctors make sure that the baby is infected which most of the times takes a few weeks. According to NY Times report, the doctor was worried about the risks, but they opted for it considering high probability of transmission.
A year ago, the researchers of Johns Hopkins University have announced that they have vanquished the virus causing AIDS from a baby born to an HIV positive mother. The antiretroviral treatment was given to the baby before it was 30 hours old. Now, almost 3,5 years old she is still virus free considering the fact she has not been receiving the treatment during the last 2 years. As the researchers had not been able to prove that she is 100% virus free, many remain skeptical claiming that she is “functionally cured” – the body controls the virus and the immune system stays in healthy condition with no treatment.
Back then, she has been only the second person ever claimed to be cured, the first one was an adult treated via stem-cell transplant. As it was reported today, on March 7th, 2014, HIV virus has re-emerged in both of the men who underwent that experimental antiretroviral theraphy. The rebound happened when they interrupted the antiretroviral treatment to check whether the virus would come back. The men were HIV free for 2.6 and 4.3 years. This news was reported at the 21st CROI, Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections.
According to Deborah Persaud, from Johns Hopkins, who was the one who led the tests on both children claims that the signs on this second baby differ from those found in patients with suppressed infections via treatment. The girl is now 9 months old and even though the results of the tests are clear, she is still on a 3-drug cocktail and the doctors are not ready to use terms like “cured” or “in remission” just yet. She also adds that the only way to prove that these kids were cured would be to take them off their meds, and they are not ready to take the risk just yet. Persaud mentioned that there might also be 5 more cases of children “cured” of HIV in Canada and three in South Africa.
According to Yvonne Bryson, of Mattel Children’s Hospital UCLA, there is a clinical trial, scheduled in a couple of month, which will be held on 60 babies, born infected. They will be put on drugs within the first 2 days. It will be used to find out when it would be time to stop the therapy and to restart it in case the virus comes back. The results of this trial will help to determine the time when it would be safe to remove children from treatment.
In the U.S., most infected moms-to-be get medication while they are pregnant to cut down the risks of passing the virus to their babies. In the U.S.A., the statistics for adult HIV prevalance in 2012 was 0,4-0,9% with over 80% of pregnant women infected with HIV receiving medication.
In Nigeria, according to statistics in 2011, the adult HIV prevalance is 3,7%, with only 18% of pregnant women infected with HIV had access to antiretroviral therapy. This had resulted to a small decline in a number of children born with HIV to 69,400 in 2011. This summed up in a total of 440,000 children with HIV in Nigeria. A quarter of pregnancies of mothers with HIV lead to the transmission of HIV to the child. According to statistics, only 1/3rd of adults that require treatment received it in 2009. Government of Nigeria has set up a project to increase this number to 80% in 2015. As for the children, only 13% of those, who require treatment have received it in 2011.
According to this, Nigeria must meet most effective antiretroviral treatments and regimens to decrease these horrible numbers.