LONG BEACH - A baby born with HIV at Miller Children's Hospital in Long Beach nine months ago immediately received highly aggressive treatment with three drugs and now shows no sign of the virus that causes AIDS, it was reported today.
The revelation was made at an AIDS conference in Boston Wednesday, The New York Times reported. It follows last year's announcement that a baby born with HIV in Mississippi apparently was cured through aggressive drug treatment starting just 30 hours after birth.
Last year's announcement triggered skepticism, but news of the Long Beach baby leaves little doubt that the treatment works, the Times reported.
The first infant to make an apparent recovery from HIV infection, now famous as the "Mississippi baby," was described last March at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections, the same annual meeting where the new case was reported.
Now over 3 years old, the Mississippi child remains virus-free, Dr. Deborah Persaud, a virologist who has run ultrasensitive tests on both children in her lab at the Johns Hopkins Children's Center in Baltimore, told the Times.
The baby born in Long Beach is now 9 months old and also apparently free of the virus that causes AIDS. Her mother, who has advanced AIDS and is mentally ill, arrived in labor; she had been prescribed drugs to protect her baby but had not taken them, according to the Times.
Four hours after the birth, a pediatrician, Dr. Audra Deveikis, drew blood for an HIV test and immediately started the baby on three drugs -- AZT, 3TC and nevirapine -- at the high doses usually used for treatment of the virus, the newspaper reported.
The normal preventive regimen for newborns would be lower doses of two drugs; doctors usually do not use the more aggressive treatment until they are sure the baby is infected, and then sometimes not in the first weeks.
"Of course I had worries," Deveikis told the Times. "But the mother's disease was not under control, and I had to weigh the risk of transmission against the toxicity of the meds. ... I knew that if you want to prevent infection, early treatment is critical."
The Long Beach baby is now in foster care, she told the Times. The mother is alive as well.
It is incorrect to describe her as "cured" or even as "in remission" because she is still on the drugs, Persaud told The Times. But because the most sensitive blood tests can find no virus capable of replicating, she describes the baby as "having sero-reverted to HIV-negative."
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