New Delhi: One of the most deadliest diseases to have gripped the world for ages is HIV/AIDS and finding a cure for it has posed the biggest challenge for scientists across the world.
When infected with the HIV virus, humans cannot produce the required antibodies to kill it, which is why the HIV vaccine has been a challenge to develop.
However, a 9-year-old South African child with HIV may just become a beacon of hope for scientists. As per reports, the girl was diagnosed with the life-threatening disease when she was just a month-old and has managed to keep her infection suppressed for more than eight years, even after stopping anti-HIV medicines.
This just further cements scientists’ belief that early treatment can occasionally cause a long remission that, if it lasts, would be a form of cure.
Her case was revealed Monday at an AIDS conference in Paris, where researchers also gave encouraging results from tests of shots every month or two instead of daily pills to treat HIV.
“That’s very promising” to help people stay on treatment, the US’ top AIDS scientist, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said of the prospects for long-acting drugs, the Associated Press reported.
At present, the treatment does help control HIV, but the patient needs to take it for the rest of their lives.
Till date, only one person is known to have been cured – the so-called Berlin patient, a man who had a bone marrow transplant in 2007 from a donor with natural resistance to HIV.
Transplants, though, are risky and not always the wise alternative, since it is impractical to try to cure the millions already infected.
That said, some researchers are targeting the next best alternative – long-term remission, when the immune system can control HIV without drugs even if signs of the virus remain.
Aggressive treatment soon after infection might enable that in some cases, and the South African girl is the third child who achieved a long remission after that approach.
She was in a study sponsored by the agency Fauci heads, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, that previously found that early versus delayed treatment helped babies survive.
The girl, whom researchers did not identify, started on HIV drugs when she was 2 months old and stopped 40 weeks later. Tests when she was 9½ years old found signs of virus in a small number of immune system cells, but none capable of reproducing. The girl does not have a gene mutation that gives natural resistance to HIV infection, Fauci said, so her remission seems likely due to the early treatment., the Associated Press said.