Canadian Scientists Currently Studying Early, Aggressive HIV Treatment in Infants

by in Parenting, pregnancy, Unusual Baby Stories


About this time last year, a Mississippi girl born with HIV made national headlines. According to physicians treating the child, high doses of an antiretroviral cocktail had been administered to the girl shortly after birth. She continued treatment for the next 15 months, but then dropped off the medical radar. Some eight months later, she resurfaced and, despite the fact that she’d missed out on treatment during that period, no detectable traces of the virus were found in her system.

Then, earlier this month, another baby born with HIV received aggressive treatment just four hours after birth. After a variety of tests were conducted multiple times, the L.A. born child showed no signs of the virus in her system.

Baby Feet

Canadian scientists want to know more about these cases, and others like them. And, according to Jason Brophy, the co-principal investigator and researcher at the CHEO Research Institute in Ottawa, Canada – the data needed to conduct a study is already available.

“We’ve been doing basically what they did in Mississippi here in Canada for some time,” Brophy told CTV News.

In fact, Brophy and colleagues have already looked at a review of about 200 cases of Canadian children that were treated shortly after birth for HIV. Among them, at least 5 had begun treatment within 24 hours after birth, and have continued treatment since. According to Brophy, these children are showing “as little HIV virus in their bodies” as the most recent case from Los Angeles.

Results like these can be considered “functional cures.” The term, coined by American doctors, means that the virus levels are so low, they won’t trigger an active infection. The child may even be lucky enough to go into complete remission from HIV, which is what it almost appears the Mississippi baby may have done.

“The key question in this scenario is, is there something about starting treatment very, very early, within the first day of life, is there something about that which can lead to a situation where we can’t detect the virus later on after stopping the treatment?” Dr. Ari Bitnun, the study’s co-principal investigator and a pediatric AIDS specialist at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, told CTV News.

What is unique about the Mississippi case is that, unlike many of the other cases, that child stopped treatment and still did not have a flare-up of the virus in her system. This extremely rare situation gives a lot of hope to the future of HIV infected children.

“It’s very exciting,” Brophy said. “This is what everyone has wanted for a long time – maybe a cure for HIV would be possible in the future.”

But the term ‘cure’ should not be taken lightly when it comes to HIV. There are still many unanswered questions, particularly when you look long-term. Will the virus flare up again? Will there be ill effects later on down the road from taking such high doses of the medication early on in life? No one really knows, and until we do, we should cautious when approaching the possibility of stopping treatment medications.

“It isn’t something that you do lightly because the virus can rebound,” Bitnun said, adding that the talk of a “cure” is still a bit premature at this point.

“We need to really understand what is happening in these children, how the virus is controlled, where the virus remains in the body,” Hugo Soudeyns, a microbiologist at Montreal’s Sainte-Justine University Hospital Research Center, and project lead on the study, told CTV News. “These are all very serious considerations that need to be taken into account before treatment interruption is being considered.”

It should also be noted that transmission from mother to baby can easily be prevented with medication during pregnancy. Of course, this means that the mother has to either be aware she has HIV/AIDS, or she has to discover this information early on in pregnancy. This can be determined through a simple blood test, but in some countries, the test is optional.

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About the Author

Kate Givans is a wife and a mother of five—four sons (one with autism) and a daughter. She’s an advocate for breastfeeding, women’s rights, against domestic violence, and equality for all. When not writing—be it creating her next romance novel or here on Growing Your Baby—Kate can be found discussing humanitarian issues, animal rights, eco-awareness, food, parenting, and her favorite books and shows on Twitter or Facebook. Laundry is the bane of her existence, but armed with a cup of coffee, she sometimes she gets it done. Find out more about Kate’s books at authorkategivans.com.

Comments (1)

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  1. lilian jane says:

    Hello my good friends please do not see this strange cause it my life story about my healing, i was having HIV for good 6yrs. Things were not working fine for me due to my health status i know longer have friends know lover it even takes time before my family co-operate with me due to this i tried all possible means i can to get this devilish sickness out of my body i went to hospitals churches and other heath organization but all remains the same till yet i never gave up cos i was not born with this illness so i decided to take it over to the internet to see if i could get remedy, on my search i saw a testimony of a woman, she said she was also having a terrible sickness for over 3yrs but now she is healed i was surprise at first when i saw her testimony so she wrote a name DR OVIASUYI and also gave his email id so i mailed them which is i told them about my problem and after the processes he told me that am healed but i never believed he told me to go and confirm it from the hospital were i have been taking treatment still i never believed also although he gave me evidence that the sickness was gone.
    Finally i decided to go for check up and to my surprise my doctor said the sickness was know longer there with thought of joy i started shearing tears.
    My friends today am now married bless with 2kids,sir i will forever remain in your debt

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