Researchers reported on Thursday that the "Mississippi child" -- the first child believed to have been cured of HIV -- now has detectable levels of the virus. The child had been off antiretroviral therapy for more than two years without evidence of HIV.
In March 2013, Dr. Deborah Persaud of Johns Hopkins Children’s Center, an amfAR grantee, detailed the case of a two-year-old child in Mississippi diagnosed with HIV at birth and immediately put on antiretroviral therapy. At 18 months, the child ceased taking antiretrovirals and was lost to follow-up. When brought back into care at 23 months, despite being off treatment for five months, the child was found to be free of the virus. A battery of subsequent highly sensitive tests indicated the absence of HIV. The work was made possible by a grant amfAR awarded to Dr. Persaud and Dr. Katherine Luzuriaga of the University of Massachusetts Medical School in September 2012.
It was during a routine clinical visit in June that the child was found to have detectable HIV levels in the blood, and a second viral load blood test performed three days later confirmed the finding. The child was put back on antiretroviral therapy after tests showed decreased levels of CD4+T-cells and the presence of HIV antibodies. Current treatment so far is decreasing virus levels, and the child is being monitored by Dr. Hannah Gay, her pediatrician at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, Mississippi.
While this latest development is disappointing, the case has enabled researchers to gain important new knowledge that will further inform cure-focused research. The case will remain an important landmark in AIDS research since no other child born with HIV is known to have spent this long off antiretroviral therapy without experiencing a resurgence of virus. It underscores the need to develop better, more sensitive assays that can detect tiny amounts of virus, an area of study that is being actively investigated by amfAR-funded researchers.
Researchers will continue to monitor the child to determine more fully what can be learned from this extraordinary case, and amfAR will report on any further developments as information becomes available.