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A baby in Mississippi born with HIV has been cleared of the virus, doctors announced Sunday (March 4). The baby had the disease for over two years and has been classified as “functionally cured.”

Doctors attacked the virus by giving the baby aggressive treatment since one day after its birth, which is not common practice. The child was treated for 12 to 15 months.

From the New York Times:

If the report is confirmed, the child born in Mississippi would be only the second well-documented case of a cure in the world. That could give a lift to research aimed at a cure, something that only a few years ago was thought to be virtually impossible, though some experts said the findings in the baby would probably not be relevant to adults.

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. The results have not yet been published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.

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.

 

“My first thought was to panic. I thought, ‘Oh my goodness, I have been treating a child who is not actually infected,'” said pediatric HIV specialist, Dr. Hannah Gay, who treated the child. Results of the child’s negative status were confirmed via a series of “highly sensitive” tests. Gay checks on the results every few months saying that she “keeps praying” that the virus stays gone.

Provided that doctors are able to duplicate the result with other babies, it could provide for a breakthrough among infant patients. It is estimated that 330,000 babies were infected with the disease in 2011.

Photo: Davita Labs

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