Curing AIDS in New-born Infants: Breakthrough!

By Shlomo  Maital     

           baby AIDS

    Few things are more tragic, and more unfair, than new-born infants born with AIDS, acquired from their mothers.   I was stunned to learn that every year, 250,000 babies worldwide are born infected with the AIDS virus! 

   It is tough enough for many babies to make their way in the world, without the lifelong struggle with AIDS, starting at birth. 

   But a creative doctor may have found the answer.

   According to a report in the New York Times,  *    “When scientists made the stunning announcement last year that a baby born with H.I.V. had apparently been cured through aggressive drug treatment just 30 hours after birth, there was immediate skepticism that the child had been infected in the first place.   But on Wednesday, the existence of a second such baby was revealed at an AIDS conference here, leaving little doubt that the treatment works. A leading researcher said there might be five more such cases in Canada and three in South Africa.  And a clinical trial in which up to 60 babies who are born infected will be put on drugs within 48 hours is set to begin soon, another researcher added.  If that trial works — and it will take several years of following the babies to determine whether it has — the protocol for treating all 250,000 babies born infected each year worldwide will no doubt be rewritten.  “This could lead to major changes, for two reasons,” said Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, executive director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases. “Both for the welfare of the child, and because it is a huge proof of concept that you can cure someone if you can treat them early enough.”   

    Let’s applaud Dr. Audra Deveikis.  Here is how she made the breakthrough discovery:   “ A baby girl born at Miller Children’s Hospital in Long Beach, Calif., is now 9 months old and apparently free of the virus that causes AIDS. Her mother, who has advanced AIDS and is mentally ill, arrived in labor; she had been prescribed drugs to protect her baby but had not taken them.   Four hours after the birth, a pediatrician, Dr. Audra Deveikis, drew blood for an H.I.V. test and immediately started the baby on three drugs — AZT, 3TC and nevirapine — at the high doses usually used for treatment of the virus.    The normal preventive regimen for newborns would be lower doses of two drugs; doctors usually do not use the more aggressive treatment until they are sure the baby is infected, and then sometimes not in the first weeks.   “Of course I had worries,” Dr. Deveikis said in an interview here. “But the mother’s disease was not under control, and I had to weigh the risk of transmission against the toxicity of the meds.”   “I’d heard of the Mississippi baby, I’d watched the video,” she added. “I knew that if you want to prevent infection, early treatment is critical.”   The Long Beach baby is now in foster care, she said. The mother is still alive as well.

It may take some time. But perhaps, many of those 250,000 babies born to AIDS moms will be spared the illness, thanks to  Dr. Deveikis.  

    Dr. Deveikis simply broke the rules, broke the protocol for treating AIDS babies – and may as a result have saved many lives.   And of course, she read the literature and case studies.   

    Thanks, Dr. Deveikis!   It took courage to defy the conventional protocol, and you may even have endangered your career in doing so.   Perhaps one day you will get a Nobel Prize.   I wonder why no other doctors thought simply to administer the large doses of anti-AIDS drugs to newborns at risk?   I guess it’s really hard to think out of the box.