In what has been dubbed the “world’s first report of long-term remission from HIV in a child,” an 18-year old French woman is now in remission from HIV, despite ceasing anti-viral medicines 12 years ago, when six years of age.
Born with HIV transmitted by her mother in 1996, she was placed on four anti-viral therapies at three months of age. She continued on treatment until her family chose to pull her off treatment at the age of six.
Remarkably, 12 years later, the HIV levels in the young woman’s bloodstream are too low to measure.
Researchers contend there may be something unique in the woman’s biology that, when combined with early treatment, enabled her to control the infection. In addition, based on their previous work among adults, the researchers cite she may fall into a group known as “post-treatment controllers,” such as the “Visconti patients” – 14 adult French nationals diagnosed with HIV who received treatment soon after infection, but ceased treatment three years later. Today, 12 of the Visconti patients remain HIV-free, with an average 10 years in remission.
Early with antiretroviral therapies has been reported to aid remission by preventing the formation of HIV reservoirs inside the body.
The French woman’s story was outlined in a report presented by doctors at the International Aids Society (IAS) conference in Vancouver, Canada which ran from July 19 – July 22, 2015.
Discussing the report with the BBC, Melbournian of the Year, 2014, HIV scientist and leading infectious diseases physician, Professor Sharon Lewin, University of Melbourne, “The French teenager case provides strong evidence yet again, of the powerful benefits of starting anti-HIV treatment as early as possible.
“This is an inspiring story for those of us working in this field, and for everyone living with HIV,” said Prof Lewin.
Yet researchers continue to remain skeptical, with Prof Lewin stating, “Important though this case is, I strongly believe that to advance our efforts towards finding a cure for HIV, we need large prospective studies that can nail down who might be able to safely stop anti-viral therapy and keep the virus under control.
“A single case report is unable to do that,” said Prof Lewin.
“We need to identify a robust test to measure very low levels of virus or find a better way to predict this idea of post-treatment control.
“If we had such a test, this would really help move clinical trials in the HIV cure field forward,” Prof Lewin said.