A teen girl in the region of Paris, France, who has had the HIV virus since birth, seems to be the first child known to have achieved long-term HIV remission without the use of medication.
The teen was born to an HIV-infected mother, and doctors immediately started her on antiretroviral drug treatment to prevent the disease. Unfortunately, the baby was found to have HIV, and so was treated with a cocktail of four antiretroviral medications to combat the illness.
According to CNN, her progress was monitored, along with other children who were HIV-positive. Around the age of 5, her family decided to discontinue treatment and did not appear for monitoring for one year. Upon returning for a doctor visit, it was found that the HIV was in remission, although no medications were used for a year.
Now, 12 years later, the teen remains in HIV remission. She is not cured, but the HIV levels in her blood are undetectable. Asier Saez Cirion, of the Institut Pasteur in France, said this type of remission in children is unprecedented.
“This is the first [time] long-term remission has been shown in children, or adolescents.”
Asier cautions that, though the teen’s remission is remarkable, it is very rare at this point, and parents should not make the choice to discontinue antiretrovirals for their children in the assumption they will enjoy similar remission.
“The fact that you initiate treatment very early doesn’t imply you will achieve remission of infection.”
Deborah Persaud, a Johns Hopkins Children’s Center virologist, concurs with Saez Cirion’s opinion.
“This case is very rare… Many kids have gone off [HIV] treatment — and treated that early — and we haven’t seen this outcome. Parents should not take their child of their antiretroviral regimen to see if they’re like this child.”
Wow just WOW!! French teen’s HIV remission continues 11 years after she stopped taking drugs… – http://t.co/FeOMa9EcpA I LOVE SCIENCE
— Ken Pinkela (@kenpinkela) July 20, 2015
It is yet unknown if the teen achieved HIV remission due to such early treatment, or if she is one of a small group, only one percent, of people whose immune system fights off the disease, reports USA Today. Director of the Gladstone Institute of Virology and Immunology, Warner Greene, says there is just not enough information at this time to ascertain which factors have contributed more to the girl’s HIV remission.
“It’s just too early, and the laboratory data is too sparse, to really figure out what is going on.”
Though there is not yet a cure for HIV, the fact that this teen has achieved remission for 12 years without treatment gives great hope for the future.
[Image via the Guardian]