Friday, November 8, 2013

The Baby of Hope: does a three year hold hopes for HIV infected newborns?

Three years ago, somewhere in the Mississippi state of US, a woman was detected to be HIV positive while she was in labor. The baby was born, and there was a 25-30% chance of the baby being HIV positive too.
Dr. Hannah Gay, a pediatric HIV specialist treating the baby, had a difficult choice to make. It takes about six weeks to get confirmed reports of HIV in newborns. Should she start the antiretroviral treatment? This treatment can be toxic, and so is usually given only after confirmation of HIV.
Dr. Gay decided to start the treatment immediately. The baby received aggressive antiretroviral treatment for the next 18 months. Then, the baby stopped coming for the sessions. Dr. Gay assumed the worst. The virus would come back. It was a lost cause.
She was to get a surprise. The baby came back after 5 months. Dr. Gay assumed she would have high virus infection. There was none!
It was magical. Five months after stopping treatment, the baby was HIV free. No treatment was started then.
This find made international news. Dr. Gay and her colleagues were noted by Time magazine in the list of most influential people of 2013.
That was one year ago. The baby is now 3 years old, still off medication and still free of HIV.
Doctors caution against reading too much in the baby’s case, though. It might be a special case. The treatment might not even be responsible for the good result. It is too early to say from one case. In fact a much larger study, funded by US government, is beginning next year to track a number of HIV positive babies.
Let’s watch the developments. This surely holds a ray of hope for all those who are not yet born.

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