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A baby girl in Mississippi who was born with HIV has been cured after very early treatment with standard HIV drugs, US researchers reported on Sunday, in a potentially groundbreaking case that could give insight into eradicating HIV infection in young children.
The child's story is the first account of an infant having a "functional cure", a rare event in which the illness goes into remission without the patient needing drugs, and standard blood tests showing no sign that the virus is replicating itself.
More tests need to be done to see if the treatment will 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.
"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.
In 2007, the HIV infection of Brown, the so-called Berlin patient, was eradicated through an elaborate treatment for leukemia.
No health guarantee
There's no guarantee the child will remain healthy, although sophisticated tests have uncovered just traces of the virus' genetic material lingering.
Specialists say the case offers promising clues on how to eliminate HIV infection in children, especially in AIDS-plagued African countries where many babies are born with the virus.
"You could call this about as close to a cure, if not a cure, that we have seen," Dr Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health, who is familiar with the findings, told The Associated Press.