In a blow to what was believed to be a huge step in the battle against HIV, a baby thought cured of the virus – and dubbed “Miracle Baby” because of it – was found to still have detectable levels of the HIV inside of her. The four-year-old girl, born to a mother infected with AIDS, was treated immediately after birth with an antiretroviral therapy (ART), which had appeared to halt the spread of the virus. The treatments were stopped approximately two years ago, but doctors announced this week that the HIV is still present in her.
Reports MedicalNewsToday.com: “After nearly 2 years of not taking antiretroviral therapy (ART) without any evidence of the virus returning, detectable levels were discovered during a routine clinical care visit at the start of the month. Repeat testing confirmed this finding 72 hours later. Tests also found evidence of an actively replicating pool of the virus within the child's body. The child, now nearly 4 years of age, has once again started on ART, and presently the treatment is reducing the virus levels.”
The Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, said the setback reminds the medical community of just how far they have yet to come in the battle against HIV and AIDS.
“Certainly, this is a disappointing turn of events for this young child, the medical staff involved in the child's care, and the HIV/AIDS research community,” said Dr. Fauci. “Scientifically, this development reminds us that we still have much more to learn about the intricacies of HIV infection and where the virus hides in the body.”
However, doctors do not see the return of the virus as a complete fail. The fact that the infant was able to remain HIV dormant for nearly two years provides a basis for further study.
Explains Deborah Persaud, professor of infectious diseases at the John Hopkins Children's Center in Baltimore, who was also involved in the treatment of the child:
“The fact that this child was able to remain off antiretroviral treatment for two years and maintain quiescent virus for that length of time is unprecedented,” said Persaud. “Typically, when treatment is stopped, HIV levels rebound within weeks, not years.”
Dr Fauci added: “The case of the Mississippi child indicates that early antiretroviral treatment in this HIV-infected infant did not completely eliminate the reservoir of HIV-infected cells that was established upon infection but may have considerably limited its development and averted the need for antiretroviral medication over a considerable period.”
Over 34 million individuals are infected with the HIV virus today.