A little girl in South Africa has been “virtually cured” of HIV after being given a cocktail of drugs as a baby, doctors have revealed.

She has become only the third child to “beat”¬†the Aids virus¬†into long-term remission.

The child was given a ten-month course of antiretroviral medication until she was one-year-old, and then taken off the treatment as part of a medical trial.

Eight years and nine months later, the virus is still dormant and the girl healthy without needing treatment, a research team reported at the International Aids Society conference on HIV science in Paris.

“This new case strengthens our hope that by treating HIV-infected children for a brief period beginning in infancy, we may be able to spare them the burden of life-long therapy,” said Aids expert Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), which funded the study.

Some scientists refer to sustained, drug-free remission as a “functional cure”.

Unlike a traditional cure, where the virus is eradicated, the patient still has HIV in their system but it is so weakened that it cannot replicate or spread to sexual partners.

Researchers hope that by treating people as soon as possible after infection, they can one day induce drug-free remission for sustained periods of time, perhaps for good.

This has become a major focus of research amid fading hopes of finding a permanent cure.

The virus has proven more sneaky than imagined – it has the ability to hide out in human cells and play dead for years, only to re-emerge and attack as soon as treatment is stopped.

Antiretroviral (ARV) treatment inhibits the virus, but doesn’t kill it, and infected people have to take pills daily for life which are costly and have side-effects.

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Source: The Sun