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One Baby Appears Cured Of HIV, Now For The Rest

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"In science," Dr. Katherine Luzuriaga says in the UMass Medical School video above, "one case is nice, but being able to replicate that and understand what happened is our goal."

Dr. Luzuriaga describes efforts to expand the treatment of the "Mississippi baby" to others with HIV, but let's just take a moment to celebrate this HIV/AIDS milestone, one reported previously but now detailed in the latest New England Journal of Medicine. The baby born with HIV, now three years old, has now gone 18 months without treatment and still shows no sign of HIV rebound.

It appears, Dr. Luzuriaga says above, that "very early and vigorous treatment of HIV infection can make a difference...We may be altering the what we call "reservoirs" that the virus sets up, and it is those reservoirs that are the barriers to cure."

HIV particles, yellow, infect an immune cell, blue. (NIAID_Flickr)
HIV particles, yellow, infect an immune cell, blue. (NIAID_Flickr)

NPR's Richard Knox reports on the case: A Toddler Remains HIV-Free, Raising Hopes For Babies Worldwide. He begins:

A 3-year-old girl born in Mississippi with HIV acquired from her mother during pregnancy remains free of detectable virus at least 18 months after she stopped taking antiviral pills.

New results on this child, published online by the New England Journal of Medicine, appear to green-light a study in the advanced planning stages in which researchers around the world will try to replicate her successful treatment in other infected newborns.

And it means that the Mississippi girl still can be considered possibly or even probably cured of HIV infection — only the second person in the world with that lucky distinction. The first is Timothy Ray Brown, a 47-year-old American man apparently cured by a bone marrow transplant he received in Berlin a half-dozen years ago.

This new report addresses many of the questions raised earlier this year when disclosure of the Mississippi child's case was called a possible game-changer in the long search for an HIV cure.

And he concludes:

Meanwhile, researchers pursuing an HIV cure will convene next month in San Francisco to consider various strategies — for adults as well as children. One other recent glimmer of hope was provided this summer by Boston researchers who reported that two HIV-infected men with lymphoma remain virus-free without treatment for several months after stopping antiviral treatment.

This program aired on October 24, 2013. The audio for this program is not available.

Carey Goldberg Twitter Editor, CommonHealth
Carey Goldberg is the editor of WBUR's CommonHealth section.