March 07, 2014 - 7:29 PM
TORONTO - A team of Canadian scientists is beginning a study to see whether starting to treat infants at risk of developing HIV in the first 72 hours after birth leads to better outcomes than starting drug regimes after HIV infection has been confirmed.
That's the protocol that has been touted as a possible cure for infants infected with HIV, one which has been used with apparent success at least twice in the United States.
But the Canadian researchers say it is premature to use the word cure in relation to infants treated in this way.
They say at least five Canadian children have been treated in the same manner as the so-called "Mississippi baby," the first case in which it has been reported that early treatment led to apparent remission.
The Mississippi baby is now 3 1/2 years old and has been off HIV drugs for the past two years.
But the Canadian scientists say the children in Canada who received early treatment have not been taken off their AIDS medications.
The study has received nearly $2 million in funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the International AIDS Society and the Canadian Foundation for AIDS Research.
One of the investigators says it has been Canadian practice for at least the past five or 10 years to start drug treatment immediately on infants born to HIV-positive women whose infection is not well controlled.
Dr. Lindy Samson of the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario in Ottawa says the study investigators know of at least five children in Canada who were treated with this protocol. But part of the study will involve trying to track down whether there are other Canadian children who were treated this way, Samson says.
Another of the researchers, microbiologist Hugo Soudeyns from Ste-Justine Hospital in Montreal, says children who received early treatment will be compared to HIV-positive children who were started on their drug regimens later.
"Definitely at this stage a talk of cure is premature," Samson says.
"We are very focused on trying to understand whether early treatment in infants living with HIV infection may lead to an ability or an enhanced ability to control the virus. However ... we do not want to raise unrealistic expectations amongst the patients and their parents regarding any talk of cure."
News from © The Canadian Press, 2014