French scientists urge caution over HIV ’cure’
US scientists say they have cured a baby born with HIV for the first time, in a case that could lead to significant advancements in treatment for infected children. But the two leading HIV specialists in France are urging caution.
“It’s an incredible story, and totally unique,” French doctor and journalist Jean-Daniel Flaysakier wrote on his medical blog on Sunday.
A baby born with HIV has been cured with what has been called a “functional” -- rather than “complete” -- cure by using antiretroviral drugs administered less than 30 hours after her birth.
Though the virus has not been entirely eliminated, its levels are so low that the baby’s body can control it without further treatment.
The news was announced on Sunday by US researchers at the 20th annual Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI) in Atlanta, Georgia.
The mother of the child was HIV-positive, though she did not know it during her pregnancy (she had not consulted a doctor before giving birth).
After the antiretroviral drugs were administered for 18 months, the baby no longer needed any treatment, and the virus has not returned. The child is now two-and-a-half years old.
“What’s exceptional here is that the treatment was stopped,” explained Jean-François Delfraissy, director of France’s National Agency for AIDS Research, in an interview with FRANCE 24. “And none of the baby’s blood tests have detected any trace of HIV, despite the fact that she is no longer receiving the drugs.”
Possible reactivation of the virus?
However, the considerable enthusiasm generated by the news is not fully shared by all AIDS specialists.
Professor Luc Montagnier, widely credited for discovering the AIDS virus, has called for “caution,” for two main reasons. One is that the medical profile of the child concerned is rare. “Only one third of babies born from HIV-positive mothers who have not been treated are infected by the virus,” he told FRANCE 24. “70% are healthy at birth.”
Furthermore, there is no guarantee that the virus -- currently dormant but not fully destroyed by the immune system or the treatments -- will not be reactivated at any given moment.
“One would need to follow up with the child periodically to know whether or not the virus will return or not,” Montagnier said. “It all depends on the persistence of the ‘reservoir’ [the group of cells in which the virus can lie dormant for several years].”
Mainly ‘interesting for research’
Delfraissy agrees with Montagnier on that last point.
“One would need several years to pass before we can call this a ‘cure’,” he said. “We don’t yet know if the virus will wake up and release new viral particles.”
Read the full article at: france24.com
Woman Born With HIV Reacts to ’Cure’
Hydeia Broadbent was born with HIV coursing through her veins, invading her white blood cells and eroding her immune system. Her adoptive parents would find out three years later, after her biological mother and brother tested positive for the virus.
The year was 1987, six years after the first 159 Americans came down with a mysterious disease that would soon be known as AIDS. And at the tender age of 3, Broadbent became a guinea pig in the quest for an HIV treatment.
"My mom signed me up for a trial," said Broadbent, now a 28-year-old HIV and AIDS activist. "She knew that was my only hope. She knew the doctors would look at me really carefully, so that’s what we did."
Back then, death was the norm, according to Broadbent, who saw more kids die from the complications of HIV than survive them. Even she "coded couple times," she said, meaning she "died and came back." [...] Source:GoodMorningAmerica