The four-year old girl born with HIV was believed cured a year ago, but the latest tests reveal the virus has returned.
A year ago, a Mississippi girl was the marvel of the medical community for being the first child born with HIV to be “cured” of the disease. As early as this past March, the child had appeared free of the disease, but tests conducted on her last week have shown the disease has reemerged.
Doctors are not yet certain how the virus reemerged in the girl, referred to as the “Mississippi baby,” which disappeared under equally unusual circumstances. She began a regimen of powerful medication for her HIV just a few hours after her birth, and continued to receive treatments until she was 18 months old, at which point doctors could not find her. Reappearing five months later, doctors could find no sign of the disease in her. The girl’s mother admitted to not giving her daughter HIV medication in the intervening months either.
Since then, she had not required HIV treatments for two years. In most cases of HIV, if treatment stops then the virus typically reemerges from hiding places within the body, referred to as “reservoirs,” typically located in the brain and stomach.
Doctors had been hoping the case of the “Mississippi baby” could lead to a breakthrough in the early treatment of HIV, but now they’re obviously reevaluating their findings. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, had been hoping the case of the young girl could be used in an upcoming federal HIV study in the U.S. “We’re going to take a good hard look at the study and see if it needs any modifications,” the BBC quoted him as saying earlier this week.
While the return of HIV in the girl is obviously a tragedy, there is still some good news. “The prolonged lack of viral rebound, in the absence of HIV-specific immune responses, suggests that the very early therapy not only kept this child clinically well, but also restricted the number of cells harboring HIV infection,” said Dr. Katherine Luzuriaga, in a press release on the topic from the National Institutes of Health.
A second American child had been “functionally cured” of HIV earlier this year.That child, a baby girl in Los Angeles born in April 2013, had her disease put into remission using a regimen of medication including AZT, 3TC and nevirapine, which began almost immediately after birth.