The full text of this article by Michael Smith, North American Correspondent for MedPage Today first appeared here.
There is no "Canada baby" to put against the U.S. "Mississippi baby." At least, not yet. And all that, of course, needs some background.
Constant readers will recall that early in 2013, American scientists reported that they were observing a baby who had been infected with HIV at birth, was given full-scale antiretroviral therapy within hours, and is now without HIV.
Could it be that if the virus is ambushed quickly enough after infection it can't establish its hidden reservoirs and can be eradicated by antiretroviral drugs?
In the one-step-forward, two-steps-back world of HIV cure, it was just another observation. But it was intriguing and needed replication.
Enter the Canadians. It turns out it's not so rare north of the border for babies born with HIV to be immediately put on a full three-drug HIV regimen.
Scientists at several institutions pooled their information and found they had five children who appeared to match the Mississippi baby -- they had been treated within several hours of birth and sensitive testing showed little or no sign of HIV.
The problem: They were all still on therapy, whereas the Mississippi baby had been off treatment for several months after she was lost to follow-up. When her care resumed, doctors were astonished to find the HIV had not rebounded.
Details of the Canadian cases were presented at the annual meeting last week of the Canadian Association for HIV Research and -- unexpectedly -- the researchers were able to present data on a child who had stopped treatment.
This was not an experiment, according to a member of the research team, Ari Bitnun, MD, of the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. Rather, the child, now age 3, was having difficulty adhering to medication. To try to avoid the resistance associated with intermittent therapy, it was decided just to stop, at least temporarily.
That's not uncommon, Bitnun told me. When HIV-positive kids get to their teen years, compliance with drug therapy can seem impossible, and doctors will often advise simply stopping for a time.
But in this case, the virus rebounded very quickly -- plasma viral load had reached 7,797 and 11,358 copies of HIV RNA per mL 2 and 4 weeks later, respectively.
Read the rest of the article here.