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by Sean Henahan, Access Excellence

BOSTON- The case of a five year old child who was born infected with HIV and has since shown no sign of the virus or symptoms of disease has galvanized the AIDS research community.

The case is described in the New England Journal of Medicine by Dr. Yvonne Bryson, a pediatric AIDS specialist at UC Los Angeles. The child was born of an HIV positive mother and showed no evidence of HIV infection. However, 19 days later, and again 51 days later, the baby's HIV antibody test came back positive. Yet subsequent testing revealed neither HIV antibodies, viral particles or other signs of HIV infection, the researchers report. The baby's mother has also remained free of AIDS, although she remains HIV positive.

The majority of babies born to HIV-positive mothers do not become infected with the virus. This case is quite different, in that the baby apparently was born HIV-positive and then somehow eliminated the virus from his system.

This is not the first report of a baby born HIV positive subsequently becoming HIV-free. An estimated two percent of babies born to HIV positive mothers are reported to become HIV negative after initially showing signs of HIV infection. The thing that distinguishes this case is that it that is the first case to be carefully studied and documented using the full panoply of molecular biology diagnostic techniques.

Some researchers have urged caution in the interpretation of this case. Some have voiced concern that DNA sequences of the HIV initially found in the baby do not match those found in the mother. Another possibility is that the virus is dormant in the lymph nodes or brain cells of the child.

This case joins the list of reports involving exposure to HIV without subsequent progression to AIDS. Studies are already underway in a small group of adult patients known as long-term non-progressors, i.e. patients who remain HIV positive, but who never show any decline in their immune systems or any symptoms of AIDS. Also, almost from the beginning of the AIDS epidemic there have been reports of long-term partners of HIV positive patients remaining free of infection. A group of prostitutes in Zambia who appear to be immune to HIV infection despite repeated exposure are also being studied.

This case study is reported in NEJM, Y.Bryson, 3/30/95. For related information on long-term non-progressors and the Zambian prostitute studies, see the article Natural Immunity to HIV


Transmitted: 95-03-30 19:34:15 EST

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