New details in the case of a girl in Mississippi validate researchers' hope that she represents the first documented case of HIV remission in a child.
Last March, early findings were presented that very early, aggressive treatment appeared to have prevented the virus from taking hold of the girl's immune cells.
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"Our findings suggest that this child's remission is not a mere fluke," Deborah Persaud, M.D., lead author of the NEJM report and a virologist and pediatric HIV expert at the Johns Hopkins Children's Center, said in a press release.
According to the updated report published today in the New England Journal of Medicine, the 3-year-old's HIV-specific antibodies remain negative. Tests for certain immune cells that would indicate an active infection are also negative. Trace amounts of the virus may remain, but it appears incapable of forming a new virus. The researchers have also ruled out the possibility that the girl has a revved-up immune system that is naturally able to suppress the virus.
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"We're thrilled that the child remains off medication and has no detectable virus replicating," said pediatrician Hannah Gay, M.D., of the University of Mississippi Medical Center, who identified and treated the baby. "We've continued to follow the child, obviously, and she continues to do very well. There is no sign of the return of HIV, and we will continue to follow her for the long term."
The current treatment for high-risk newborns requires waiting until infection is confirmed to start the full treatment regimen. Researchers are hoping that the Mississippi case may help speed that process up to help babies already infected.