Nearly two years ago, researchers rejoiced when they thought they had found a cure for babies born with HIV. But after a long remission, it appears there was no cure after all for the Mississippi baby girl, reports the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID).
The HIV-infected baby had not taken antiretroviral drugs for almost two years, but shortly after her 4th birthday researchers have found a relapse. Scientists behind the discovery are devastated according to NIAID director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D.
“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. 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. The NIH remains committed to moving forward with research on a cure for HIV infection.”
Researchers almost lost hope when the “cured” HIV-infected baby and its mother were not able to be located. Once the baby was found through social services nearly 10 months later, researchers assumed it would be crawling with hard fought-off markers of HIV. To the surprise of the research team, they were unable to detect any signs that the baby was still a carrier of HIV.
Although there is no cure after all, the baby did manage to lower her levels of HIV and HIV-specific antibodies below detectable rates. Another test is currently underway on a baby in California who will now have to stay on the drugs indefinitely due to ethical concerns that the HIV infection may return, reported The New York Times.
Other experiments seeking a baby HIV cure are set to begin once children who are infected with the virus are found, including one in Botswana according to Forbes. However, these experiments will take several years to yield results as it will be necessary to continue administrating the antiretroviral drugs to the babies for a longer period of time. The dilemma of when to take the children off the drugs to avoid another “no cure after all” situation will have to decided on in the future. Nearly 260,000 babies were born with HIV or infected shortly after in 2012, more than 10% of total annual infections.