Newest Case of An Apparent HIV Cure: Baby Shows Viral Reemergence

Last year a child in the southern United States known now as the ‘Mississippi Baby,’ received worldwide acclaim. The reason for the acclaim was it was the newest case of an apparent HIV cure, as the baby had had a complete viral remission of HIV. This child, born in 2010, was infected at the time of birth with HIV. The child was diagnosed as HIV positive, and was immediately given a highly concentrated treatment of antiretroviral therapy (ART). At 18 months old, the baby was no longer brought to the doctor for treatments or tests for five months, and when the child returned to the doctors they feared her HIV levels would be very high. Instead, the virus was undetectable. Along with a lack of HIV cells, there were no HIV antibodies present in the body. This seemed to be further “proof” to the scientific community of an apparent HIV ‘cure.’ Moreover, this prompted a worldwide study of intensive ART treatment.

Then, in Milan, Italy, a baby who was born HIV positive in 2009, was also thought to have been ‘cured.’ This baby had received intense ART shortly after the child’s birth and continued for three years. Again, there was no trace of HIV cells or of HIV antibodies in the child’s blood. After several months of these same results, ART treatment was stopped. Unfortunately, two weeks later the HIV tests became positive again, again illustrating that talk of a cure was premature.

In July, 2014 the ‘Mississippi Baby’ also tested positive for HIV. This was a major blow to the research in ART, and to the hope of completely eradicating any traces of HIV in a body. “It felt like a punch to the gut,” said Dr. Hannah Gay, a pediatric HIV specialist at the University of Mississippi Medical Center.

There are two other patients who were once considered cured of HIV, an anonymous patient and Timothy Ray Brown. As they were both treated in Berlin, they have been dubbed the ‘Berlin Patients‘ by many media outlets. But this newest case of an apparent HIV cure is not secure, as the anonymous patient has reverted to being HIV positive. However, this is not a roadblock; it is the start of a new push in research for achieving a true cure for HIV.