July 11 (Bloomberg) -- The Mississippi baby thought to have been cured of HIV has the virus again after two years without therapy, a finding dashing the hope that researchers had found a way to treat infants born with the disease.
The child, born to an HIV-infected mother, is now nearly four years old. It was found to have detectable HIV levels in its blood during a routine clinical care visit earlier this month, according to a statement by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
Doctors had unintentionally stopped giving anti-retroviral treatments to the child at 18 months. When care resumed five months later, medical staff couldn’t detect the virus and the speculation was that the child was free of the illness.
“Obviously, as an individual patient it’s disappointing,” said Anthony Fauci, director of NIAID, in a telephone interview. “But we’re learning very important things. Our capability of detection isn’t good enough. This reservoir is extraordinary, and we need to get better tools to measure it accurately.”
During a visit last month, the child was found to have the virus after blood tests, Fauci said. The levels of HIV in the blood were “not high, but not trivial,” he said.
“This case represents important research that still provides a tremendous learning opportunity about how rapid, early treatment affects the body’s response to HIV, especially in newborns,” said R.J. Simonds, vice president of program innovation and policy at the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, in a statement.
Besides the Mississippi baby, a child born in Los Angeles County was found to have no trace of the virus nine months after starting anti-HIV treatment four hours after birth. The Los Angeles baby cannot be said to have been cured, said Fauci, because its treatment was never stopped.
The Mississippi child has resumed therapy and is doing well with no side effects, Fauci said.