French teenager healthy 12 years after ceasing HIV treatment

A French teenager who was infected with HIV at birth has lived in good health an astonishing 12 years since she last took antiretroviral drugs, researchers say. The case — the longest-known example of a paediatric HIV patient living without ill effect after discontinuing treatment — adds to the overwhelming body of knowledge supporting the benefits of early treatment, and will help researchers to better understand why some patients with HIV can go into remission after ceasing treatment.

Scientists described the case of the unidentified girl, who is now 18 and a half years old, today (20 July) at the annual meeting of the International AIDS Society in Vancouver, Canada. She joins a select group of patients with HIV — such as the 'Mississippi baby'1 and the 'VISCONTI cohort' of 20 patients2 — who were treated early on in their infections, then discontinued treatment without immediate ill effects.

These patients are a very rare exception to the rule, doctors caution: the vast majority of patients with HIV who stop treatment experience a rebound in virus levels that, if left untreated, can harm their health.

“It’s an intriguing case, but it’s a very unique and unusual outcome,” says physician and virologist Deborah Persaud of Johns Hopkins Children’s Center in Baltimore, Maryland, who first reported on the Mississippi baby in 2013. “We’ve had many kids who are treated for years, then go off treatment and rebound, so the global message is still that kids should stay on treatment.” 


Nature 523, 391–392 (23 July 2015) doi:10.1038/nature.2015.17951

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