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“Doctors announced on Sunday that a baby had been cured of an H.I.V. infection for the first time, a startling development that could change how infected newborns are treated and sharply reduce the number of children living with the virus that causes AIDS. The baby, born in rural Mississippi, was treated aggressively with antiretroviral drugs starting around 30 hours after birth, something that is not usually done. If further study shows this works in other babies, it will almost certainly change the way newborns of infected mothers are treated all over the world. The United Nations estimates that 330,000 babies were newly infected in 2011, the most recent year for which there is data, and that more than 3 million children globally are living with H.I.V. If the report is confirmed, the child born in Mississippi would be only the second well-documented case of a cure in the world, giving a boost to research aimed at a cure, something that only a few years ago was thought to be virtually impossible. The first person cured was Timothy Brown, known as the “Berlin patient,'’ a middle-aged man with leukemia who received a bone-marrow transplant from a donor genetically resistant to H.I.V. infection. “For pediatrics, this is our Timothy Brown,'’ said Dr. Deborah Persaud, associate professor at the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center and lead author of the report on the baby. “It’s proof of principle that we can cure H.I.V. infection if we can replicate this case.'’ Dr. Persaud and other researchers spoke in advance of a presentation of the findings on Monday at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Atlanta. Some outside experts, who have not yet heard all the details, said they needed convincing that the baby had truly been infected. If not, this would be a case of prevention, something already done for babies born to infected mothers. “The one uncertainty is really definitive evidence that the child was indeed infected,” said Dr. Daniel R. Kuritzkes, chief of infectious diseases at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Dr. Persaud and some other outside scientists said they were certain the baby – whose name and gender were not disclosed – had been infected. There were five positive tests in the baby’s first month of life – four for viral RNA and one for DNA. And once the treatment started, the virus levels in the baby’s blood declined in the pattern characteristic of infected patients. Dr. Persaud said there was also little doubt that the child experienced what she called a “functional cure.” Now 2½ , the child has been off drugs for a year with no sign of functioning virus.”—The New York Times, “In Medical First, A Baby with HIV Is Called Cured”
“Bee venom contains a potent toxin called melittin that can poke holes in the protective envelope that surrounds HIV, and other viruses. Large amounts of free melittin can cause a lot of damage. Indeed, in addition to anti-viral therapy, the paper’s senior author, Samuel A. Wickline, MD, the J. Russell Hornsby Professor of Biomedical Sciences, has shown melittin-loaded nanoparticles to be effective in killing tumor cells. The new study shows that melittin loaded onto these nanoparticles does not harm normal cells. That’s because Hood added protective bumpers to the nanoparticle surface. When the nanoparticles come into contact with normal cells, which are much larger in size, the particles simply bounce off. HIV, on the other hand, is even smaller than the nanoparticle, so HIV fits between the bumpers and makes contact with the surface of the nanoparticle, where the bee toxin awaits.”—
If this study holds a lot of scientific weight, that’s fucking amazing. Nanoparticles have been showing nothing but great promises for the field of virology it seems.
The media is only perpetuating ignorance and inciting false hope by blowing up with articles and stories regarding the first person being “cured” of HIV.
Here are the facts:
- The person in question is a toddler. A baby girl. She was infected by her HIV-positive mother, who didn’t receive the proper, recommended care for her condition during gestation.
- She wasn’t cured. She was functionally cured. And that, in itself, was a medical fluke — not a marvel. More on that below.
- She was administered a highly concentrated cocktail of three antiretroviral drugs within her first 30 hours outside of the womb. Before the HIV lab test results even came back.
- Two tests were done an hour apart from each other shortly after birth, and the baby was positive, but with a fairly low reading of 20,000 copies per milliliter (c/mL) of HIV RNA. But the fact that she tested positive so early in life was indicative of the time of her infection: likely to have been in the womb, rather than during delivery.
- Her atypical treatment regimen was prescribed in an effort to suppress the virus before it progressed to tissue/cells colloquially referred to as viral reservoirs…anatomical areas where latent viral infections are at the peak of their persistence.
- 2.5 years later, the anonymous baby girl tested HIV “negative” — due the fact that her viral traces are so low, they can’t be picked up by standard clinical tests. She’s been off treatment for over eight months. This is the definition of a functional cure.
- Researchers as well as the virologist who treated her made it a point to stress that her current state is largely attributed to the intensity and the timing of the treatment — in absence of prophylactic measures.
- This is the second reported case of an HIV “cure.” In 2007 a man famously known as the “Berlin patient,” Mr. Timothy Brown garnered the media’s attention. He was battling both Leukemia and HIV, when he received a bone marrow transplant to treat the latter. The bone marrow he received was from a person with an HIV-resistent mutation, one only found in 1% of the caucasian population. And thus, he is now HIV-free.
What does this all mean? There still isn’t a medical cure for HIV. And that girl, as well as Mr. Brown are no more than fortunate and blessed.
Baby now free of HIV has doctors talking
NBC News: A baby born infected with the AIDS virus who got immediate treatment now has no detectable virus in her blood. Her case, presented to a meeting of AIDS researchers, will prompt questions about how early babies should be treated. It also illustrates the possibility that immediate treatment with HIV drugs could do a lot to protect those who are newly infected.
Dr. Deborah Persaud of the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center, the virologist who led the study, says scientists see this as the first well-documented case of a functional cure in a neonatal child.
Persaud says a functional cure means the virus isn’t entirely gone, but it’s also not doing any damage. Doctors believe it’s because they began therapy for the baby within 48 hours of being infected