HIV Remission– A 9-year old South African child’s HIV treatment has hinted progress in finding the cure for the dreadful immune deficiency disease.
The report was made public during the 9th IAS Conference on HIV Science.
It was discovered that the child whose identity is withheld was diagnosed with the viral disease. Medics administered the antiretroviral treatment on the baby as early as 1 month old. This was part of a clinical experiment.
According to the report the child has not had any symptoms of active virus for about 8 and a half years.
The child has been in remission till date. This means that after the aggressive administration of the antiretroviral drugs in infancy, the baby has been without symptoms ever since.
There are about 36.7 million people suffering HIV at the moment. With the availability of the ATR, the prevalence rate has gone down by half.
South Africa is one of the leading countries with HIV/AIDS prevalence. The recent development in the case of the 9 year old, points to a breakthrough in curing the disease or coming up with new improved drugs.
According to a 2015 UNAID report over 1.8 million children were living with HIV with 150,000 children became newly infected (mostly in Africa). It also said that an estimated 110,000 children died of AIDS-related illnesses.
Before now there have been 2 other cases that showed remission over a period of treatment. A baby from Mississippi was placed on a treatment within 30 hours of birth and for 27 months, the baby’s blood was clear of HIV.
Another case in France showed that a child was able to go 11 years without drugs.
The recent S.A case will be the first reported of a child controlling their HIV infection without drugs in Africa.
It is not clear if the earlier treatments at infancy is all the secret to the remission of the virus. Since the South African child is not the only child subjected to the experimental treatments, his state of virtual HIV remission has surprised doctors and observers.
It is worth mentioning though that while there is no active HIV in the child’s body, the virus has been detected in the child’s immune cells. This means that the virus is latent and hidden but has a chance of resurfacing in the future.
For the S.A child’s unique case, it is considered that the baby’s biology and immune system contributed to his protection from the virus.
Dr Avy Violari, the head of paediatric research at the Perinal HIV Research Unit in Johannesburg, said:
“We don’t believe that antiretroviral therapy alone can lead to remission.”
“We don’t really know what’s the reason why this child has achieved remission – we believe it’s either genetic or immune system-related.”
The study and medical research into this HIV remission case was jointly handled by Johannesburg and UK medical teams.
Dr Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, also had this to say:
“Further study is needed to learn how to induce long-term HIV remission in infected babies.”
“However, this new case strengthens our hope that by treating HIV-infected children for a brief period beginning in infancy, we may be able to spare them the burden of lifelong therapy and the health consequences of long-term immune activation typically associated with HIV disease.”