Researchers in Boston have reported a second success in preventing AIDS in a baby born to an HIV-positive mother, and say there may be eight more such cases.
The baby, born in Long Beach, Calif., is the second doctors say aggressive treatment has prevented the disease from developing. The first announcement was greeted with great skepticism in the medical world, but the "Mississippi" baby is now more than 3 years old.
"This could lead to major changes, for two reasons,” Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, executive director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told the New York Times. “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.”
Meantime, it was disclosed that doctors are having similar success with five babies in Canada and three in South Africa.
The doctors involved in the second baby's case, in California, were not working with the obstetricians in the Mississippi case, though they were aware of its success.
Within 48 hours doctors will begin clinical tests with up to 60 babies born infected to see if aggressive early treatment will help them.
There was more good news at annual AIDS conference in Boston, according to Boston.com. An experimental drug tested on monkies appears to give victims an alternative to the daily cocktail of pills now taken.
"This is the most exciting innovation in the field of HIV prevention that I've heard of recently," said AIDS expert Dr. Robert Grant at the Gladsone Institutes.
"Both groups are showing 100 percent protection" using the drug. "If it works and proves to be safe, it would allow for HIV to be prevented with period injections, perhaps every three months.
A second, independent test produced similar results.
Research "supports moving this forward" into human testing, said Dr. Judith Currier, an infectious disease specialist at the University of California, Los Angeles.
The drugs being used to treat babies are similar to those given to adults, AZT, 3TC and nevirapine, but they are given immediately after birth instead of waiting for the disease to appear.
The disease has bedeviled the scientific community for decades, claiming as many as 36 millions lives as of 2012.
At first it was considered to mostly affect homosexuals, but later cases involved heterosexuals as well.
The disease was first clinically observed in the US in 1981, though research has indicated it may been around in a milder form in the mid-1950s.