Doctors in US have cured a baby girl of HIV using a cocktail of readily available anti-viral drugs.
The landmark case gives hope to the possibility that different populations of HIV-positive patients might be cured in different ways.
The young girl, now aged two, was diagnosed with HIV at birth was immediately put on three HIV-fighting drugs – zidovudine, lamivudine and nevirapine at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson.
The baby’s immune system responded and tests showed diminishing levels of the virus until it was undetectable 29 days after birth.
At 18 months, the child was taken off her medication and now has a normal life expectancy, doctors believe.
Dr Deborah Persaud of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore presented the findings at the 2013 Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Atlanta, Georgia.
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Persaud said that test confirmed "beyond doubt" that both mother and child were HIV positive when the child was born.
But a series of sophisticated lab tests on the child’s blood by Persaud and her colleague Dr Katherine Luzuriaga of the University of Massachusetts showed that no signs of HIV infection could be detected.
Dr Rowena Johnston, vice president of the Foundation for AIDS Research, which helped fund the study, said; "Given that this cure appears to have been achieved by antiretroviral therapy alone, it is also imperative that we learn more about a newborn’s immune system, how it differs from an adult’s, and what factors made it possible for the child to be cured."
The only other documented case of an HIV cure to date remains that of Timothy Brown, the so-called "Berlin patient."
Brown was diagnosed with leukemia in 2006 and was given a stem-cell transplant from a person who was immune from HIV due to a genetic mutation.
The patient was able to stop HIV treatment without experiencing a return of his disease.
Image: There has now been two reported cases of patients being cured of HIV. Photo: Courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net.