A 9-year-old child who was diagnosed with HIV when he was just one month old is now reported to be free of the infection. This rare case of completely wiping out the virus that causes AIDS is promising for all patients with HIV and infectious diseases.
Eight-and-a-half years after initial treatment, the child shows no signs of infection, adding another piece to the puzzle of eliminating human immunodeficiency virus. The child now has had a healthy immune system.
Researchers believe aggressive treatment soon after infection could enable long-term remission of the disease – which, if it lasts, would be a form of cure for the deadly virus.
“The fact that you can go so long without a rebound shows that it is possible to suppress the virus. It gives us hope that we may be able to do the same in more than just children,” Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases of the National Institutes of Health.
Usually, an HIV-positive patient begins with on antiretroviral drugs, known as ART, to treat them for the rest of their lives. But now, doctors have proof that the life-long treatment may no longer be necessary. This is a huge milestone that can possibly lead to breakthroughs for adults who have been infected as well.
What’s important to find out is what is so special about this child’s immune system, his reaction over time and what potential side effects in may cause in others.
The South African child is the third reported case of long-term HIV remission in a child after early, limited treatment with antiretroviral drugs.
The first case was a Mississippi baby, a girl born in 2010, who received ART just 30 hours after birth until she was 18 months old, at which point HIV remission was achieved. The baby sustained remission for 27 months, until 2015, when she rebounded and the virus was found in her blood, crushing hopes that this approach could be the route to a “functional cure” for HIV.
Next came the 2015 case of a French teenager, now 20, whose mother was HIV positive. The French child was given antiretroviral treatment soon after birth, stopped treatment at age 6 and has maintained undetectable levels of the virus in her blood since.
According to CNN.com, The teen is still in remission and maintaining good health, meaning she has been controlling her virus for more than 13 years.