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Media Examine Reaction to, Potential Implications of "Functional Cure" of Infant Born With HIV

March 5, 2013

"The remarkable case of a baby being cured of HIV infection in the United States using readily available drugs has raised new hope for eradicating the infection in infants worldwide, but scientists say it will take a lot more research and much more sensitive diagnostics before this hope becomes a reality," Reuters reports (Steenhuysen, 3/4). "The toddler's case, if confirmed in further research, could have important implications for treatment of more than 300,000 babies born with the virus each year -- mostly in the developing world," the Wall Street Journal writes, noting, "The baby is the second person ever documented to be cured of the virus during the 32-year global AIDS epidemic" after "a man named Timothy Brown and known as the Berlin patient, was cured as an adult as a result of a bone-marrow transplant he received to treat his leukemia" (Winslow, 3/4).

Pediatrician Deborah Persaud of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health "acknowledges that, like Brown, this is an n=1 finding, and says the child may still harbor an infection, which is why they're referring to the case as a 'functional cure' rather than the complete eradication of HIV, called a 'sterilizing' cure," Wired notes, adding, "'This is one case and we definitely need to have more, and hopefully we can have more,' she said" (Cohen, 3/4). "If, on the other hand, what happened to the baby ... proves to be replicable, the implications for treatment of children born with the virus are vast," the Center for Global Health Policy's "Science Speaks" blog writes (Barton, 3/5). The Wall Street Journal in a separate video report examines some of the potential implications of the case on broader treatments (3/4). In an audio report from PRI's "The World," anchor Marco Werman "gets reaction from Dr. Donald Thea, Dr. Julie Herlihy, and Leoda Hamomba, of Boston University's 'Preventing Mother to Child Transmission Project' in Zambia" (Crossan, 3/4).

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