The Best Testimony Heard This Week

Contributor: Rachael Thomas
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Updated: 4/04/2014 6:59 pm
U.S. Senator Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) Friday highlighted testimony received this week on the significance of the pediatric HIV treatment breakthrough led physicians in Mississippi.

Last year, pediatric infectious disease specialist Dr. Hannah Gay at the University of Mississippi Medical Center’s Blair E. Batson Hospital for Children in Jackson received global recognition for her aggressive treatment of an HIV-infected newborn from rural Mississippi which led to the child being “functionally cured” of the human immunodeficiency virus.

“The praise for Dr. Hannah Gay and the University of Mississippi Medical Center is well earned and exciting. Their work might lead to advances that can improve the lives of Americans and possibly even save lives,” Cochran said.

At a Wednesday appropriations subcommittee hearing to review the FY2015 budget request for the National Institutes of Health, Cochran elicited a positive response to his questions about the research carried on in Mississippi and how it might affect research into an eventual cure for HIV-AIDS.

Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, testified that a new research study will be launched that builds off the Mississippi breakthrough.

Fauci stated: “The physicians watched because they couldn’t find any virus in the baby. And now three years out, the baby is well, growing well and has no evidence of infection, which is likely the first real cure of HIV infection. That has now triggered an NIH-funded study in which a large number of babies who are born of high-risk mothers, namely mothers who have not been treated, will be put on aggressive therapy to see if, in fact, you can cure babies.

“Now, the reason that is important is that the risk benefit of treating babies aggressively very early on has been weighted in the side of waiting because you’re not sure if you’re ever going to have the opportunity of curing someone. So you say, let’s not expose the baby to aggressive therapy because you might actually hurt the baby if the baby is not infected and all you’re doing is going to be saving a few weeks.

“Now that you know you can actually cure a baby if you’re aggressive, then the risk-benefit ratio switches over all the way to the possible benefit. So, it was a very important case. And it’s triggered a study which will actually being in the middle or end of May, in a multi-center study to see if we can verify that and apply it to a larger number of babies.”

The exchange between Cochran and Dr. Fauci is available here:
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