U.S. Baby’s HIV Infection Cured Through Very Early Treatment

A baby girl in Mississippi who was born with HIV has been cured after very early treatment with standard HIV drugs, U.S. researchers reported on Sunday, in a potentially ground-breaking case that could offer insights on how to eradicate HIV infection in its youngest victims.

Dr. Deborah Persaud
Dr. Deborah Persaud

The child’s story is the first account of an infant achieving a so-called functional cure, a rare event in which a person achieves remission without the need for drugs and standard blood tests show no signs that the virus is making copies of itself.

More testing needs to be done to see if the treatment would have the same effect on other children, but the results could change the way high-risk babies are treated and possibly lead to a cure for children with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

“This is a proof of concept that HIV can be potentially curable in infants,” said Dr. Deborah Persaud, a virologist at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, who presented the findings at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Atlanta.

The child’s story is different from the now famous case of Timothy Ray Brown, the so-called “Berlin patient,” whose HIV infection was completely eradicated through an elaborate treatment for leukemia in 2007 that involved the destruction of his immune system and a stem cell transplant from a donor with a rare genetic mutation that resists HIV infection.

“We believe this is our Timothy Brown case to spur research interest toward a cure for HIV infection in children,” Persaud said at a news conference.

Instead of Brown’s costly treatment, however, the case of the Mississippi baby, who was not identified, involved the use of a cocktail of widely available drugs already used to treat HIV infection in infants.

When the baby girl was born in a rural hospital in July 2010, her mother had just tested positive for HIV infection. Because her mother had not received any prenatal HIV treatment, doctors knew the child was at high risk of infection. They transferred her to the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, where she came under the care of Dr. Hannah Gay, a pediatric HIV specialist.

Because of her risk, Dr. Gay put the infant on a cocktail of three HIV-fighting drugs – zidovudine (also known as AZT), lamivudine, and nevirapine – when she was just 30 hours old. Two blood tests done within the first 48 hours of the child’s life confirmed her infection and she was kept on the full treatment regimen, Persaud told reporters at the conference.

In more typical pregnancies, when an HIV-infected mother has been given drugs to reduce the risk of transmission to her child, the baby would only have been given a single drug, nevirapine.

Researchers believe use of the more aggressive antiretroviral treatment when the child was just days old likely resulted in her cure by keeping the virus from forming hard-to-treat pools of cells known as viral reservoirs, which lie dormant and out of the reach of standard medications. These reservoirs rekindle HIV infection in patients who stop therapy, and they are the reason most HIV-infected individuals need lifelong treatment to keep the infection at bay.

10-MONTH GAP

After starting on treatment, the baby’s immune system responded and tests showed diminishing levels of the virus until it was undetectable 29 days after birth. The baby received regular treatment for 18 months, but then stopped coming to appointments for a period of about 10 months, when her mother said she was not given any treatment. The doctors did not say why the mother stopped coming.

When the child came back under the care of Dr. Gay, she ordered standard blood tests to see how the child was faring before resuming antiviral therapy.

What she found was surprising. The first blood test did not turn up any detectible levels of HIV. Neither did the second. And tests for HIV-specific antibodies, the standard clinical indicator of HIV infection, also remained negative.

“At that point, I knew I was dealing with a very unusual case,” Dr. Gay said.

Baffled, Dr. Gay turned to her friend and longtime colleague, Dr. Katherine Luzuriaga of the University of Massachusetts, and she and Persaud did a series of sophisticated lab tests on the child’s blood.

The first looked for silent reservoirs of the virus where it remains dormant but can replicate if activated. That is detected in a type of immune cell known as a CD4 T-cell. After culturing the child’s cells, they found no sign of the virus.

Then, the team looked for HIV DNA, which indicates that the virus has integrated itself into the genetic material of the infected person. This test turned up such low levels that it was just above the limit of the test’s ability to detect it.

The third test looked for bits of genetic material known as viral RNA. They only found a single copy of viral RNA in one of the two tests they ran.

Because there is no detectible virus in the child’s blood, the team has advised that she not be given antiretroviral therapy, whose goal is to block the virus from replicating in the blood. Instead, she will be monitored closely.

There are no samples that can be used by other researchers to confirm the findings, which may lead skeptics to challenge how the doctors know for sure that the child was infected.

Persaud said the team is trying to use the tiny scraps of viral genetic material they have been able to gather from the child to compare with the mother’s infection, to confirm that the child’s infection came from her mother. But, she stressed, the baby had tested positive in two separate blood tests, and there had been evidence of the virus replicating in her blood, which are standard methods of confirming HIV infection.

ADDITIONAL RESEARCH

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said although tools to prevent transmission of HIV to infants are available, many children are born infected. “With this case, it appears we may have not only a positive outcome for the particular child, but also a promising lead for additional research toward curing other children,” he said.

Dr. Rowena Johnston, vice president and director of research for amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research, which helped fund the study, said the fact that the cure was achieved by antiretroviral therapy alone makes it “imperative that we learn more about a newborn’s immune system, how it differs from an adult’s and what factors made it possible for the child to be cured.”

Because the child’s treatment was stopped, the doctors were able to determine that this child had been cured, raising questions about whether other children who received early treatment and have undetectable viral loads may also be cured without their doctors knowing it.

But the doctors warned parents not to be tempted to take their children off treatment to see if the virus comes back. Normally, when patients stop taking their medications, the virus comes roaring back, and treatment interruptions increase the risk that the virus will develop drug resistance.

“We don’t want that,” Dr. Gay said. “Patients who are on successful therapy need to stay on their successful therapy until we figure out a whole lot more about what was going on with this child and what we can do for others in the future.”

The researchers are trying to find biomarkers that would offer a rationale to consider stopping therapy within the context of a clinical trial. If they can learn what caused the child to clear her virus, they hope to replicate that in other babies, and eventually learn to routinely cure infections.

Nigerian Professor Discovers Possible Cure For HIV/AIDS

A Professor in the University of Benin, Isaiah Ibeh on Tuesday announced the development of a new drug that can allegedly ‘cure’ HIV and AIDS.
Professor Ibeh, who is the Dean of the School of Basic Medical Sciences of the university, told reporters in Benin that the herbal drug had undergone “series of successful tests”.

He said “We are at the threshold of making history, in the sense that we seem to have with us something that will permanently take care of what over time seems to have defied all solutions. “We are talking about the latest discovery of an oral drug made from plants extraction in Nigeria for the possible cure of the pandemic, HIV and AIDS virus.’’

He said the research on the project started in 2010 and culminated in the development of “Deconcotion X (DX)–Liquid or Bioclean 11 for the cure of HIV and AIDS”.

“The existing retroviral drugs are intervention drugs for the management of AIDS but our new discovery is a possible cure.

“We have tried to look at the product first; its toxicological analysis and discovered that it has a large safety margin. “This means that if animals or human beings are exposed to it, they will not suffer any serious harm at all from the exposure. “It also helped us to know the quantity we can conveniently give to animals and will feel secure that nothing untoward will happen.

“We have also done the bacteriological analysis on it, after which we looked at its effect on the virus and the result was quite revealing and refreshing.” Ibeh also said that the drug had been exposed to series of medical examination both in Nigeria and in the USA. He added that the drug had performed well on patients with the HIV virus and had shown evidence of total restoration of damaged tissues.

“The result showed an increase in the body weight of the individual administered with DX. “The body weight was statistically significant when compared with the control group.” He said that further tests were being conducted to determine “at what point will a patient become negative after being administered the drug?”.

“This verification is necessary because it is what is used to measure whether infection is still there or not. So we need to know the siro-convention time. “But preliminary results showed that of the five latest patients orally administered with the drugs, our findings is that up to seven months , three of them were siro negative while two were sill faintly positive.’’

Professor Ibeh appealed for support from the Federal Government and relevant bodies to assist the university with relevant equipment to sustain the research.

HIV/AIDS: Ondo Govt. Organises sensitization Programme

As part of Ondo State Government’s efforts aimed at combating the spread of the deadly Human Immune Virus (HIV) and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) in the State, the State Ministry of Health in conjunction with the Ondo State Agency for the Control of AIDS (ODSACA) organised a Stakeholders’ sensitization forum in Akure, the Ondo state capital.

The Stakeholders forum with the theme:” Getting to zero summit” had in attendance Officials of the State Ministry of Health, those of ODSACA, Persons Living with HIV/AIDS, representatives of partner agencies and Non-Government Organisations and members of the public.

The State Commissioner for Health, Dr. Dayo Adeyanju and the Project Manager of ODSACA, Dr. Dayo Adegbulu while fielding questions from Newsmen spoke on the whole essence of the Stakeholders’ sensitization forum.

One of the victims of the dreaded disease; Mr. Emmanuel Aladenusi in an interview disclosed that he’s been living with HIV since 1989 said he has been able to live right with his status; urging the HIV positive persons not to stigmatize themselves and also the public to desist from stigmatizing them.

It is hoped that at the end of the forum, those present would have gained one or more relevant knowledge to either combat or prevent the spread of the dreaded disease.