First “Functional HIV Cure” Described in an Infant

A team of researchers from Johns Hopkins Children’s Center, the University of Mississippi Medical Center, and the University of Massachusetts Medical School have described the first case of a so-called “functional cure” in an HIV-infected infant. The finding, the investigators say, may help pave the way to eliminating HIV infection in children. A report on the case was presented on March 3, 2013 at the 20th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI) in Atlanta. Johns Hopkins Children’s Center virologist Deborah Persaud, M.D., lead author on the report, and University of Massachusetts Medical School immunologist Katherine Luzuriaga, M.D., headed a team of laboratory investigators. Pediatric HIV specialist Hannah Gay, M.D., associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Mississippi Medical Center provided treatment to the baby. The infant described in the report underwent remission of HIV infection after receiving antiretroviral therapy (ART) within 30 hours of birth. The investigators say 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. “Prompt antiviral therapy in newborns that begins within days of exposure may help infants clear the virus and achieve long-term remission without lifelong treatment by preventing such viral hideouts from forming in the first place,” Dr. Persaud says. The researchers say they believe this is precisely what happened in the child described in the report.
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