UMass plays role in possible HIV cure in children

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March 4, 2013, 6:34 pm
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(NECN: Brian Burnell, Worcester, Mass.) - Researchers are calling it something of a miracle. A baby born HIV-positive in Mississippi is put on intensive drug therapy 30 hours after birth. The child is treated for 18 months until the mother stops bringing the baby in. She returns five months later and when doctors check the child's blood she is essentially HIV-free.

Dr. Deborah Persaud of Johns Hopkins Children's Center, led the research on this.

"So, we believe that perhaps the initiation of very early anti-retroviral therapy prevented the formation of the viral reservoirs in central memory CD4T cells…. And really sets the stage for a pediatric cure agenda going forward."

Dr. John Sullivan helped develop one of the drugs in Worcester in the early 90's. "We could actually eradicate he virus from an individual who's been infected."

Scientists at UMass Medical School, Johns Hopkins and in Mississippi worked together on this. If the mother hadn't stopped treatment and then brought the child back a few months later, they might never have discovered the drug therapy's effectiveness.  

Dr. Sullivan says, "This was kind of an experiment that happened. It was unplanned but it established the fact that the baby clearly was infected and that this initiation of treatment at 30 hours of age allowed to virus to be eradicated over a two-year period."

Obviously this has great potential as a cure for AIDS in children. But what about curing AIDS in adults?

Dr. Sullivan says,  "I think it may although we should remember a newborn baby's immune system is different than an adult's immune system in respect to the maturation of cells that are affected by HIV."

But it’s promising. More research will determine how promising.

Tags: massachusetts, Worcester, AIDS, Brian Burnell, UMass Medical School, HIV cure
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