Doctors now have convincing evidence that they put HIV into remission, hopefully for good, in a Mississippi baby born with the AIDS virus — a medical first that is prompting a new look at how hard and fast such cases should be treated.
The case was reported earlier, but some doctors were skeptical that the baby was really infected rather than testing positive because of exposure to virus in the mom’s blood.
The new report, published online Wednesday by the New England Journal of Medicine, makes clear that the girl, now 3, was infected in the womb. She was treated unusually aggressively and shows no active infection despite stopping AIDS medicines 18 months ago.
Doctors will not call it a cure because they do not know what proof or how much time is needed to declare someone free of HIV infection.
‘‘We want to be very cautious here. We’re calling it remission because we’d like to observe the child for a longer time and be absolutely sure there’s no rebound,’’ said Dr. Katherine Luzuriaga, a University of Massachusetts AIDS expert.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, agreed.‘‘At minimum, the baby is in a clear remission. It is possible that the baby has actually been cured. We don’t have a definition for cure as we do for certain cancers,’’ he said. A scientist at his institute did sophisticated tests that showed no active virus in the child.
An international study in January aims to test early treatment in babies born with HIV to see if the results in this case can be reproduced.
Most HIV-infected moms in the United States get AIDS medicines during pregnancy, which greatly cuts the chances they will pass the virus to their babies. But the Mississippi mom got no prenatal care and her HIV was discovered during labor. Doctors considered the baby to be at such high risk that they started the child on three powerful medicines 30 hours after birth, rather than waiting for a test to confirm infection as is usually done.