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Researchers Describe 1st 'Functional Cure' of HIV in Baby
Date:3/4/2013

able levels of HIV -- decreased progressively until it was no longer detectable at 29 days of age.

Theoretically, this child (doctors aren't disclosing the gender) would have taken the medications for the rest of his or her life, said the researchers, who included doctors from the University of Massachusetts Medical School and the University of Mississippi Medical Center.

Instead, the child stayed on the regimen for only 18 months before dropping out of the medical system and discontinuing the drugs.

Ten months after stopping treatment, however, the child was again seen by doctors who were surprised to find no HIV virus or HIV antibodies with standard tests.

Ultrasensitive tests did detect infinitesimal traces of viral DNA and RNA in the blood. But the virus was not replicating -- a highly unusual occurrence given that drugs were no longer being administered, the researchers said.

No one is absolutely sure why this child achieved a "functional" cure -- meaning the virus is in remission even without medications. But investigators believe that giving antiviral treatment so early in life meant the virus had no time to create viral "reservoirs" where dormant HIV cells can linger for years before becoming active again.

"For us this is a very exciting finding," said Persaud. "By treating a baby very early [we may be able to] prevent viral reservoirs or cells that stay around for a lifetime of an infected person."

But Dr. Michael Horberg, chair of the HIV Medicine Association and director of HIV/AIDS at Kaiser Permanente, stressed that this was a "functional cure and not a cure in the most classic sense of the word."

"If we take adults off HIV medications, they almost certainly within a short time period would have levels of virus back to where they were before they were taking medication," he said.

Only one instance of a "sterilizing cure" -- when there are absolutely no traces of HIV in the body -- has been doc
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