Science and Health

Mississippi Baby Has HIV Again, Cure Hopes Take A Hit

The anonymous infant's "functional cure" last year raised hopes of a treatment for HIV-positive babies, but the virus finally re-emerged in the girl.

Mississippi Baby Has HIV Again, Cure Hopes Take A Hit
Getty Images

Disappointing news Thursday as doctors say the baby pronounced "functionally cured" of HIV last year once again has detectable levels of the virus.

The story of the girl, known only as the Mississippi baby, was major news in March of 2013 after doctors declared the toddler had no trace of live HIV virus in her system after 10 months off her medication. (Via The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times)

DR. HANNAH GAY: "I was very much surprised. Almost in a panic."
HALA GORANI: ​"In a panic? Why?"
GAY: "Because my first thought was 'Oh my goodness, I've been treating a child who's not actually infected.'" (Via CNN)

The baby was born prematurely to a mother who was HIV-positive. Her doctor, Hannah Gay of the University of Mississippi Medical Center, began aggressively treating the infant with powerful HIV drugs. (Via ABC)

But then the baby disappeared. Her mother dropped off the radar for several months and the girl's HIV was left untreated. When doctors found the child again, they were shocked to see the virus hadn't come back and declared the girl "functionally cured." (Via Getty Images)

The finding prompted headlines like "Is the End of AIDS Near?" and "Hope raised for HIV babies." (Via Time, The Times)

But even then there were doctors urging caution when proclaiming the girl cured.

"You don't want to say, 'Well, the ballgame's over. We've done it.' Because we haven't. Because it is entirely conceivable that there's virus hidden away somewhere in that child that is undetectable." (Via NBC)

Sadly, the skeptics were right. The National Institutes of Health says the girl recently tested positive for the virus once again.

But researchers aren't giving up. They say the fact that it took almost two years for the virus to reemerge is still unprecedented.

And last month the NIH said it would launch a trial to see how other HIV-positive babies respond to the same aggressive treatment the Mississippi baby received. (Via Getty Images)

To date, there's still only one person believed to have been cured of HIV: the "Berlin Patient" Timothy Ray Brown, who overcame the virus thanks in part to a bone marrow transplant from a donor with HIV-resistant genes. (Via Getty Images)