Baby 'cured' of HIV tests positive for the virus

Jul 11, 2014

A 'serious setback' in the fight against Aids, but researchers believe 'durable remission' still possible

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A child thought to have been cured of the HIV virus is no longer in remission, US health officials say.

Recent tests conducted on the four-year old detected that the virus had returned in what the New York Times calls a "serious setback" to hopes of a cure for Aids. 

The girl from Mississippi was treated with an aggressive three-drug cocktail as a new-born and repeated tests showed no sign of the HIV virus until now. Doctors say it unclear why the virus re-emerged. 

"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", Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases told Reuters.

Dr Hannah Gay, a paediatric HIV specialist who treated the girl as a baby described the news as a "punch to the gut".

Despite the result, Fauci believes the case is still important as it proves that early, aggressive treatment on babies stops the virus from replicating. It may be a way to induce "durable remission", as seen with cancer.

Only one adult is believed to have been 'cured' of HIV.

Timothy Ray Brown was given a bone marrow transplant in 2007 from a donor with a rare HIV-resistant gene. He soon tested negative for the HIV virus and has shown no signs of infection since then.

But the Mississippi baby "has become a reminder of how difficult HIV is to defeat and how distant a cure really is", says the BBC's health editor James Gallagher.

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