International baby trial hopes to find Achilles’ heel in HIV

The case shocked experts and raised hopes — at least temporarily — that HIV was functionally curable in its tiniest victims.

A Mississippi baby who was infected at birth appeared to remain clear of the virus for nearly two years, even though she was not taking prescribed antiretroviral drugs.

Although medical staff called it a “punch to the gut” when they learned earlier this year that the virus had returned to detectable levels, the young patient’s experience seemed to suggest a possible weakness in the virus.

Specifically, the use of a powerful three-drug cocktail very soon after birth appeared to substantially reduce HIV’s infamous hidden reservoir, and slowed its ability to gain a foothold.

On Monday, the National Institutes of Health announced the start of a global clinical trial in which newborns infected with the virus that causes AIDS will be given medication within two days of birth. (The Mississippi baby received anti-HIV therapy 30 hours after birth. The child’s mother stopped treatment after 18 months.)

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