The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) has been detected in a baby girl from Mississippi born with HIV and believed cured after very early treatment, disappointing the families involved and researchers.

Millions of people have died of AIDS and millions more are infected with the virus. High-Activity Antiretroviral Treatment (HAART) is a life-saving combination of drugs that can hold the virus’ progression in check.  However, HAART is unable to kill virus that hide in some long-lasting cells in the immune system. Once HAART is interrupted, the hidden virus can replicate and spread again. These dormant infected cells are often referred to as HIV’s “latent reservoir”.

A girl, 1 hour old, receives an anti-retroviral drug in South Africa to prevent infection from the HIV virus carried by her mother (CNN)

An American infant, referred to as the “Mississippi baby”, was believed to be cured of HIV using HAART.  The baby’s mother was infected with HIV, and the child began treatment right after birth. The treatment last a year and a half before it was interrupted. Since no virus was detected, she stopped treatment and was celebrated as a case of “functional cure”. Her condition was closely monitored for the next two years. Unfortunately, recent tests showed that HIV re-emerged in her blood, indicating that she is no longer in remission.

The news is undoubtedly disappointing. Since the case of the Mississippi baby, a number of other HIV patients who had begun HAART within weeks of infection have tried coming off of treatment. The relapse of the Mississippi baby will temper much of the optimism for these patients. For researchers, the child’s relapse shows that the virus can return after much longer periods than previously thought, questioning the effectiveness of HAART.

Going forward, most hope for a cure for HIV centers on finding and eliminating the latent reservoir. One proposed strategy is to identify drugs to activate the dormant virus inside the reservoir cells and let the patient’s own immune system destroy the infected cells. These activated reservoir cells might also be vulnerable to therapeutic vaccines or engineered antibodies. However, until such drugs become available, HAART, testing, and safer-sex practices remain humanity’s best defense against the spread of HIV.

Edited by SITN Waves Editor Serena Shen. Special thanks to Daniel Grubaugh, PhD candidate in the Higgins’ lab, Harvard Medical School and Ann F Durbin, PhD candidate in the Harvard Program for Virology, for providing expert commentary on the topic.

Read the BBC news here

Further reading on immune-based efforts to cure HIV: Science review

Photo credit: CNN article original photo

3 thoughts on ““Mississippi Baby” Relapse is a Setback in the Effort to Cure HIV

  1. HIV always dangerous for human.The ‘Mississippi baby’ was born to an HIV-positive mother who had not received any treatment at the time of pregnancy.So we should always take carefully about HIV. Thanks for this informational Post

  2. Hi,
    Thanks for sharing this wonderful article. It is very good information about some the curing of HIV/AIDS infection. It was very useful for many, including me to explore and gather the information about HIV/AIDS. It is a must-read blog to explore the new information about HIV infection curable medicines. Keep posting!!

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