Cause for hope

A report that doctors in the US ‘functionally cured’ a baby born with AIDS affliction offers hope for treatment of the deadly disease caused by the HIV virus. An aggressive therapy with standard anti-retroviral drugs within hours of birth of the baby in Mississipi is thought to have resulted in a progressive reduction in the presence of the virus in the child’s blood and after 18 months the virus could not be detected.

Normally HIV patients have to undergo medical treatment for the rest of their lives. When the doctors declared the baby to have been functionally cured it meant that there is no need for further treatment as the virus is unable to replicate itself in its body any more, though there could be a slight trace of the affliction left in the system.

This is only the second recorded case of a patient with human immuno-deficiency virus being cured through a medical process. The first case was that of person who is known as the Berlin patient, who was cured over five years ago through bone marrow transplant. How the treatment worked  for him is still being studied and debated. While there is need for more clarity about the latest case also, it shows that curative treatment may be possible.

A treatment cannot be formulated on the basis of a single case of success. Even if it works it is likely that it is effective only in cases where infection has been detected early, almost at the same time as the virus is entering the body. This is not the case with the great majority of adult patients who are almost always diagnosed a long time after  the infection.

But there are many babies who are born with the infection and the treatment can help in curing them. Once research throws light on how the treatment worked in the case of the Mississippi baby it may also help in finding a treatment for adults. There is extensive research going on the world over into the working of the HIV virus and on possible preventive and curative treatments of AIDS.

There are already many drugs which are used to control the disease. The spread of the disease and the number of deaths caused by it have come down in the last few years. The progress should lead to a complete cure.

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