In 2012, The New England Journal of Medicine published an article about a child known as "Mississippi Baby" who was reportedly cured of HIV. Unfortunately, more than two years later, doctors have discovered the nearly 4-year-old now has detectable levels of the infection again, according to USA Today.
Researchers were cautiously optimistic that this case would provide information that could help babies born with the virus, mostly in developing countries. More from USA Today:
"Certainly, this is a disappointing turn of events for this young child, the medical staff involved in the child's care and the HIV/AIDS research community," said Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infection Diseases, at the briefing.
The development "reminds us that we still have much more to learn about the intricacies of HIV infection and where the virus hides in the body," Fauci said in a statement. "The NIH remains committed to moving forward with research on a cure for HIV infection."
The girl is now back on anti-retroviral treatment after being taken off two years ago and will remain mostly for the duration of her life.
"Mississippi Baby" was born with the infection. Her mother did not receive any prenatal care, and when she went to the hospital to deliver, it was too late for the doctors to give Baby treatment before delivery. The day after she was born, doctors began administering medications. Mother and baby routinely received treatment for the next 18 months, but then they disappeared. Doctors feared the worst when they returned five months later, but instead Baby appeared to be HIV-free.
Fauci says that doctors had hoped that giving anti-retroviral drugs so early prevented the AIDS virus from hiding in her white blood cells, which can serve as "reservoirs" of infection. These reservoirs of hidden cells can cause the disease to come back if patients stop their medications.
Fauci said last year that the child's case offered support to something scientists have long believed: that a cure is possible "if you can get somebody treated before the reservoir of virus forms in the body, and before the immune system has been damaged by months or years of viral replication."
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Image: Female hands holding red AIDS awareness ribbon via Shutterstock