After a Mississippi doctor revealed last year that she accidentally cured a baby born with HIV, skeptics suggested the tests that initially showed she was infected may have been wrong. However, on Wednesday, doctors at an AIDS conference in Boston revealed that the virus has been cleared from a second baby born nine months ago in Long Beach, California. In the U.S., transmission from mother to child can usually be prevented via prenatal drugs, but the mother, who is mentally ill and has advanced AIDS, didn’t take the medication she was prescribed. After hearing about the Mississippi baby, the girl’s pediatrician, Dr. Audra Deveikis, put her on a high dose of three drugs used to treat the virus hours after birth. “Of course I had worries,” Dr. Deveikis told the New York 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.”
While technically the Long Beach baby, who is now in foster care, isn’t “cured” or “in remission” because she’s still on medication, blood tests have found no virus capable of replicating. The Mississippi child is now 3 and appears to be HIV-free, though she hasn’t been treated for about two years. One researcher said there may be five similar cases in Canada and three in South Africa.
Researchers will soon start a clinical trial with up to 60 babies in the United States, South Africa, and Brazil. The trial will take several years, but it looks like doctors may have found a way to cure the 250,000 babies born with HIV each year.