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Physicians May Have Cured 3-Year-Old Girl Born With HIV

Update Date: Oct 24, 2013 11:47 AM EDT

Shocked by the continuous remission of a 3-year-old child born with HIV, experts say this is a big deal as nothing like this has ever happened before. 

"Nearly 3.3 million children live with HIV worldwide, and more than 260,000 acquire the virus from their mothers during delivery despite advances in preventing mother-to-child infection," reported John Hopkins Children's Center.

The case of the 3-year-old Mississippi child was originally exposed to the public in March of 2013 during a scientific meeting in Atlanta, but new findings have been reported.  

"Our findings suggest that this child's remission is not a mere fluke but the likely result of aggressive and very early therapy that may have prevented the virus from taking a hold in the child's immune cells," Deborah Persaud, M.D., lead author of the NEJM report and a virologist and pediatric HIV expert at the Johns Hopkins Children's Center, said in a news release. 

Within the 30 hours of birth of the child the infant was treated with an anti-retroviral in order to diminish the virus. 

According to the John Hopkins Children's Center, 29 days after the first anti-retroviral treatment the child showed unnoticeable levels of the virus. Until the infant was 18-months she remained on antivirals. The physicians said the child stopped treatment until then.  

"Upon return to care, about 10 months after treatment stopped, the child underwent repeated standard HIV tests, none of which detected virus in the blood," reported John Hopkins Children's Center.

"We're thrilled that the child remains off medication and has no detectable virus replicating," pediatrician Hannah Gay, M.D., of the University of Mississippi Medical Center said. "We've continued to follow the child, obviously, and she continues to do very well. There is no sign of the return of HIV, and we will continue to follow her for the long term."

The physicians said that this case presents a new meaning in the treatment of infants infected with HIV.

"Prompt antiviral therapy in newborns that begins within hours or days of exposure may help infants clear the virus and achieve long-term remission without the need for lifelong treatment by preventing such viral hideouts from forming in the first place," Persaud said.

A federally funded study is said to begin in early 2014 to investigate whether the early-treatment of HIV can be used to treat all HIV-infect newborns. 

The findings are published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

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