Research & the “Mississippi Baby”

Just before the start of the International AIDS Conference this year, news broke that the “Mississippi Baby” thought to have been cured of HIV now has measurable levels of HIV in her system.  Many researchers have taken this as a setback in the quest for an HIV cure.  Back in 2011 the child was born with HIV and given an aggressive treatment of ARVs just hours after being born. She stayed on treatment until 18 months old when she fell out of care and her family stopped treatment. Upon the child’s return to care months later, physicians found no traces of HIV even though she was no longer taking medication.  The child remained off medication with no trace of HIV for another few years; until recently when HIV was found in her system during a routine visit.

This news comes just a month after the National Institutes of Health announced its plans to start a $5.2 million dollar global study that aims to replicate the results in the “Mississippi baby”.  The study intended to recruit 54 HIV positive infants and begin them on a similar aggressive ARV treatment within 48 hours of being born. These children would remain on treatment for the first two years. After two years, all children with no trace of virus in their system would stop treatment and be monitored until the age of 5 to check for relapse of HIV.  Researchers hoped that this study would give insight on finding a cure for HIV.

So, what does the relapse of the “Mississippi baby” mean for the intended study? At the moment, not much. The study is still slated to happen. There will be amendments and alterations made to the forthcoming study based on the new information about the “Mississippi Baby”. Nevertheless, the study aims to answer questions about strategy for HIV treatment in infants. In addition it would give researchers additional information into the development of a cure for HIV.


Resources and for further information:
Dina Fine Maron. HIV Detected in “Cured” Mississippi Baby, Creating Huge AIDS Therapy Setback.
Warran Tong. No Longer Cured: HIV Relapse in “Mississippi Child” Raises New Questions.
Dina Fine Maron.  HIV on Trial: An Attempt to Cure the World’s Smallest Patients.