After stopping treatment 12 years ago, a French teenager born with HIV was still in remission, making it the longest-known case of a pediatric patient living healthfully without antiretroviral drugs. Scientists described the case Monday at the annual International AIDS Society meeting in Vancouver, Canada, saying the news may give credence to the impact of early treatment.
The patient is a 18-year-old girl who was infected with HIV either near the end of her mother's pregnancy or during birth, reports the Agence-France Presse. She was initially unsuccessfully treated with a drug that would prevent the virus from taking hold, but was found to have developed high levels of HIV after the treatment. To combat the virus, she was put on a cocktail of four powerful anti-HIV drugs for the next six years until her family removed her from treatment for unknown reasons.
When the family brought her back one year later, physicians found that they were unable to detect viral levels of the disease, and determined that she was not at risk of the disease progressing. They decided not to begin treatment again and monitor the disease instead.
Although she was in long-term remission, the young woman was not considered cured, said Dr Asier Saez-Cirion of the HIV, Inflammation and Persistence Unit at the Institut Pasteur in Paris. Saez-Cirion led the study.
"We can detect HIV in the cells, but what we cannot detect is viral replication in the plasma," Saez-Cirion told AFP in an interview, adding, "We don't know yet why this girl was able to control the infection."
According to the report, her remission was not like those who had the genetic factors associated with natural control of infection, which has been seen in a few patients. She did not possess those genes known as "elite controllers."
"Most likely she has been in virological remission for so long because she received a combination of antiretrovirals very soon after infection," said the report.
The news followed the report of a Mississippi baby who, in 2013, was thought to be "functionally cured" before doctors found detectable levels of HIV one year later, according to CNN. The baby's mother had not known she was HIV-positive while pregnant.
Doctors have long recommended treatment for expecting mothers infected with HIV, who will pass the virus' antibodies onto their children, but only have a 30 percent chance of giving their newborn the disease.