A 9-year-old South African child has been “virtually cured” of HIV. The child who was infected with HIV at the time of birth was given a burst of treatment after birth. The child has been in remission since eight and half years giving hope to millions of a possible new HIV cure.
The child was born to an HIV-positive mother and was taken to one of the clinics at about eight weeks of age. The therapy was initiated when the viral load was much lower, and it was continued until 48 weeks. By the time the treatment was completed, the child was free of any detectable viral load.
Even after a year, the child showed no signs of actively replicating virus. This is the first such case of sustained virological treatment. The family is said to be “really delighted.” The identity of the child is kept confidential mainly because the mother has died.
Most people affected with HIV need treatment throughout their lives to control the HIV that can destroy the immune system and cause AIDS. It is believed that the child had a better immunity and different kind of control over the virus even before the treatment began. Deborah Persaud, a virologist at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center in Baltimore, said as follows.
“This is really the first step toward HIV remission and a cure, understanding the factors that came into play to lead to this outcome is really going to inform science.”
This case was described by researchers at the International AIDS Conference in Paris. This case study reveals that there could be other ways to control and perhaps cure HIV with treatment other than a lifelong regimen of antiretroviral drugs.
While the child being in remission raises hope, experts urged caution. Linda-Gail Bekker, president of the International AIDS Society (IAS), said in a statement that this case raised more questions than it answered. However, it still gives hope that treatment may not be required for life.
This is not the first case of complete remission. The first case was a young girl from Mississippi who was “functionally cured” for 23 months after ending the treatment, as reported by CNN. The virus returned after 23 months, and she was put back on medication.
The second case was reported in France where a child underwent treatment from birth until the age of six years. The blood showed no detectable level of virus for 13 years after completion of treatment. The teen is still in remission and maintaining good health.
The South-African child is the only case till date that appears to be a virtually complete HIV cure. The child was a part of a study which took place from 2005 to 2011 and involved 400 HIV-positive babies, as reported by The Washington Post. The aim of the study was to find if early treatment before the signs of sickness was better than deferred treatment.
It is a known fact that some people called the “elite controllers” are better at dealing with HIV. However, the child has something that has never been seen before. Studying that something and replicating it could give rise to a new drug or vaccine or antibody that could cure HIV in the future.
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[Featured Image by Niranjan Shrestha/AP Images]