EGPAF-Supported Researcher Discovers “Functional” Cure for HIV in Infant

By Jane Coaston | March 4, 2013

Dr. Deborah Persaud of Johns Hopkins University, recipient of the EGPAF Research Award in 2005 and lead researcher on study showing functional cure of HIV in an infant.

Johns Hopkins University

Elizabeth Glaser worked for a day just like this one.

This weekend at the 20th annual Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI) in Atlanta, researchers announced that a baby born with HIV in Mississippi had been functionally cured of the virus. This is the first documented case of a functional HIV cure in an infant, and could be a catalyst for future research and further evidence of just how close we are to eliminating pediatric HIV.

The baby, born in Mississippi, was confirmed to have HIV by five separate HIV tests – four for viral RNA and one for DNA. Doctors started the baby on antiretroviral treatment (ART) using a three-drug regimen within the first 30 hours of life – an aggressive form of treatment that had not yet been attempted.  Though the baby stopped receiving treatment after 18 months of age, researchers gave the child repeated blood tests following the end of treatment and found no signs of HIV.

Nick Hellmann, executive vice president for medical and scientific affairs at EGPAF, said that the exciting news opened up new possibilities for mothers living with HIV and their babies. “If the findings from this case are confirmed, the very early treatment of this infected infant can represent a new approach to further reduce the number of infant infections, which can already be reduced to less than 2-5 percent in HIV-exposed infants by the use of antiretroviral drugs to prevent mother-to-child transmission of the virus. “

The lead author of the study, Dr. Deborah Persaud, is a long-time friend of EGPAF. In 2005, she was honored with the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation Scientist Award. During the ceremony, Peter Glaser, brother of Elizabeth Glaser, said “[Elizabeth] would have been deeply grateful and excited about Dr. Persaud's pursuit of scientific advances and her tireless dedication to improving children's health." We’re so proud of Dr. Persaud and her continued efforts towards eliminating pediatric HIV.

But the journey is not yet over.  Globally, millions of children still lack access to the drugs that can save their lives, and millions of mothers still need treatment to avoid passing HIV to their unborn babies. We’re too close to stop now. 

Jane Coaston is Media Relations Coordinator for the Foundation, based in Washington, D.C.