One of last year’s biggest health stories came from the case of a Mississippi child apparently cured of HIV: treated with an anti-retroviral drug cocktail shortly after she was born, the virus seemed to have functionally vanished, leaving behind only fragments. Now 3 years old, she still has yet to show symptoms. But was she only an exception to the rule?
Maybe not. On Wednesday, doctors revealed a second, similar case: a Los Angeles-born child infected through its mother was treated with the drugs four hours after its birth, last April. Now, with the child approaching its first birthday, the virus appears to have gone into remission.
The HIV medication used in both cases is usually part of a treatment to suppress the virus in infected patients, but the illness, in those other cases, comes back after the patient is taken off the drugs. Right now, the baby is still getting regular medication, which makes it difficult to tell the status of the virus. (The Mississippi baby stopped being taken to appointments, for reasons that are unclear; the next time doctors saw her, the virus appeared to be gone.) Still, after regular testing, doctors are convinced that the virus is behaving differently from patients only having the virus suppressed, and are continuing to monitor the child in hopes that the virus is in remission.
So, no, it’s not definitively a cure, at least not yet. The Associated Press put it like this:
But two cases–and, possibly, more to come through the same process–would indicate that the first treatment wasn’t some kind of a fluke. Potentially great news for infected children.