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Dublin: 3°C Thursday 4 March 2021

A second child "cured" of HIV has relapsed

The baby was born with the virus, but was given anti-retro viral treatment early.

Image: HIV Ribbon via Shutterstock

A SECOND CHILD who was believed to have been cured of HIV has apparently relapsed.

Researchers today report in The Lancet that the baby, born HIV-positive, who appeared to have been cured of HIV after being given early antiretroviral treatment (ART) to combat the virus, has exhibited “detectable HIV infection”.

The case report is the second report of apparent viral remission followed by rebound in a baby given early ART treatment, after the case of the ‘Mississippi baby’ received widespread attention.

A team of researchers, at the University of Milan and the Don Gnocchi Foundation in Milan, Italy, report that the baby―born to an HIV-positive mother in December 2009―appeared to have been cured of HIV at age three, after intensive ART treatment was begun shortly after birth.

Tests to measure the amount of HIV in the child’s blood indicated that the virus had been eradicated.

Notably, even antibodies to HIV had disappeared, showing that the baby was no longer seropositive and, with the agreement of the child’s mother, ART was stopped.

However, two weeks later, the child’s HIV tests came back positive, leading the researchers to conclude that the viral reservoirs had not been eliminated by ART, despite the virus being undetectable for more than 3 years.

There are differences between this case, and that of the Mississippi baby (as well as the ‘Berlin patient’ Timothy Ray Brown, thought to be the only adult to be cured of HIV); importantly, the child’s immune system continued to show multiple signs of responding to HIV infection even after the virus became undetectable, which was not the case for either the Mississippi baby or the Berlin patient.

The authors also suggest that the child’s high viral load at birth, as well as an infection while in the womb, and low birthweight, may have also precluded long-lasting viral remission.

The availability of many classes of potent antiretroviral drugs has substantially decreased HIV morbidity and mortality, but these drugs cannot eradicate the virus because they do not eliminate viral reservoirs. The search for an HIV cure continues.

Read: Baby ‘cured’ of HIV has relapsed

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