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'Miracle' toddler could be key to HIV treatment

By Victoria Sanchez, KEYT - KCOY - KKFX Anchor/Reporter, victoriasanchez@keyt.com
Published On: Mar 11 2013 01:15:29 PM CDT
Updated On: Mar 05 2013 01:31:38 AM CST

'Miracle' toddler could be key to HIV treatment

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. -

A toddler in Mississippi is being called a miracle and the child that may have been cured of HIV could help future patients.

The baby girl was born HIV-positive and doctors took an aggressive approach to try to treat the infant. So far, that treatment worked and there is no trace of the virus in the child's blood. Now, adults are holding out hope for the future.

Ron Alexander was diagnosed with HIV in the 80s and in 1995 he found out he had AIDS.

"At that point a diagnosis with AIDS meant a life expectancy of two or three years. So I stopped working and got ready to die basically," he said.

That was 18 years ago and now Alexander is healthier and taking his medications daily. His disease will never go away, but there is some hope for newborns who contract the virus.

A baby girl in Mississippi who is being cautiously called cured, was treated with antivirals quickly, just 30 hours after birth. For 18 months, the child responded well to the treatment but stopped coming in for the medications. When doctors tracked the mother and girl down months later, there was no HIV in the baby's blood.

"It appears to have gone away," said Dr. David Fisk.

Dr. Fisk is an infectious disease physician at Sansum Clinic. He said the girl, now 2 years old, will still need to be tested to make sure the virus isn't hiding out in another part of her body.

If it isn't, it could be a breakthrough in the treatment of HIV in pediatric patients.

"The hope would be this could be reproduced in other babies and once it's shown to be a viable strategy, in a best-case scenario, then babies born to infected mothers who have not received antiviral medicines before birth, then those babies would be treated very early on to try to eradicate the virus," explained Dr. Fisk.

The case is giving Alexander some hope that children might have a chance to live a normal life.

"It would be nice to think about kids not having to, kids who would otherwise face a life of foreshortened life, not having to deal with that. Be able to lead a normal life span and not having to worry about HIV," he said.

The Mississippi case might not change his health and other adults, but Alexander said in the grand scheme of things, that's OK.

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