Summer 2013

HIV Breakthrough

Apparent cure of infant with AIDS earns alumna international acclaim

For her trailblazing work as the leader of a medical team that cured a child with HIV/AIDS, Katherine Luzuriaga, ’84, has been named to Time magazine’s 2013 list of the 100 Most Influential People in the World.

A pediatric allergist, immunologist and professor at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, Luzuriaga explained that the unidentified girl had been born HIV-positive to a mother who received no prenatal care and was not diagnosed as HIV-positive until just before the infant was born. The baby was treated with anti-HIV drugs immediately after birth. Two years later, the baby was free of the virus.

Katherine Luzuriaga is a leader in pediatric HIV/AIDS research.

Katherine Luzuriaga is a leader in pediatric HIV/AIDS research. Photo: Rob Carlin

“This is the very first case in which we’ve conclusively been able to document that the baby was infected, and then after a period of treatment, has been able to go off treatment without viral rebound,” said Luzuriaga, who has been at the forefront of pediatric HIV/AIDS research for 20 years.

In the magazine’s citation, Mark Dybul, executive director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, called Luzuriaga’s finding “an incredible breakthrough.” He went on to say, “We scientists are trained to be careful about generalizing about one case. Yet this result gives us more ammunition in the fight against HIV and AIDS. It adds substance to our conviction—not yet proven but heading in the right direction—that we can prevent this disease from infecting newborn babies.”

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