Nightly News   |  March 04, 2013

Time will tell if baby ‘cured’ of HIV

An infant treated with anti-viral drugs now appears to be free of HIV, but it’s still conceivable that there was a virus ‘hidden away’ in the little girl that is undetectable and could be reactivated. NBC’s Dr. Nancy Snyderman reports.

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>> tricky issue. while we have you, we wanted to swing to the other big medical story of this day. the word that arrived this weekend, case of a baby who researchers say may have been cured of hiv , notably using available and known medications.

>> and the word "cure" has been thrown out a lot this week in the medical community. and in the lay community. and what everyone is talking about is the story of a young child, and if the research holds up in this case of one, it might offer hope for the youngest hiv patients. the announcement came yesterday. news that an unconvention al treatment may have halted infection in an hiv baby. and by this morning, headlines across the country were calling it a possible cure.

>> this is the first case where actual infection has been documented and then lost later.

>> the baby's mother was already in labor when she arrived at a mississippi hospital in 2010 . she had no prenatal care, but a test revealed she was hiv positive . the baby was born prematurely and within 30 hours doctors started treating her with three different antiviral drugs, an unusually early and aggressive approach. they suspected the hiv may have passed to the girl from her mother, and they were trying to stay a step ahead of the virus. tests later confirmed the infant had indeed low levels of the virus, and she continued the drug regimen for about 18 months. and even after stopping the treatment for several months, today there is no sign of hiv in the little girl . but researchers say, while promising, doctors must proceed with caution and that follow-up is vital to see if this case truly is a cure.

>> you don't want to say, well, the ball game is over. we have done it. because we haven't. because it is entirely conceivable that there's virus hidden away somewhere in that child that is undetectable, even by our sensitive techniques, and that over a period of time that virus might get reactivated.

>> so it could be implications be profound? in the united states , there are 100 to 200 infections in infants every year. but in the developing world , 1,000 infections of maternal to fetal transmission every day. so, of course, everyone is looking at this. and, brian, it has raised the question whether this could work in adults. probably not. because the window of treatment here was 30 hours. by the time most adults present, it's much later than that.

>> dr. nancy snyderman , lots of medical news at the top of our broadcast tonight. thanks.