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U.S. Researchers Report "Functional Cure" for Infant Born With HIV

March 4, 2013

"A baby born with the virus that causes AIDS appears to have been cured, scientists announced Sunday, describing the case of a child from Mississippi who's now [two and a half] and has been off medication for about a year with no signs of [active] infection," the Associated Press reports (Neergaard, 3/4). "The infant described in the report [by researchers from Johns Hopkins Children's Center, the University of Mississippi Medical Center and the University of Massachusetts Medical School] underwent remission of HIV infection after receiving antiretroviral therapy (ART) within 30 hours of birth," an article from the University of Massachusetts Medical School states. "In contrast to a sterilizing cure -- a complete eradication of all viral traces from the body -- a functional cure occurs when viral presence is so minimal, it remains undetectable by standard clinical tests, yet discernible by ultrasensitive methods," the article notes (Larson, 3/4).

"This is the first well-documented case of an HIV-infected child who appears to have been functionally cured of HIV infection -- that is, without detectable levels of virus and no signs of disease in the absence of antiretroviral therapy," according to a press release from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) (3/3). "Though medical staff and scientists are unclear why the treatment was effective, the surprise success has raised hopes that the therapy might ultimately help doctors eradicate the virus among newborns," the Guardian notes (Sample, 3/3). "Experts note that the girl's story is also unique -- involving a string of unusual events -- and won't immediately lead to a cure for the 34 million people living with HIV worldwide," USA Today writes, adding, "Details of the case were unveiled on Sunday at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Atlanta" (Szabo, 3/3).

Additional coverage on the announcement is available from Agence France-Presse, Bloomberg, CNN, the Financial Times, Forbes, GlobalPost, HealthDay/U.S. News & World Report, Los Angeles Times, NBC News, New York Times, NPR's "Shots" blog, PBS "NewsHour," The Telegraph, Reuters, Science Now, the Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Post.

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