In what many would label a miraculous occurrence, one 18-year-old teen from France born with AIDS experiences a 12 year remission without the help of drugs.
Astonished, the medical community is trying is asking what natural resistance to HIV could the teen have developed to experience a more than a decade remission without the use of often longlife treatments.
Similar cases have been reported in the adult population, with an average HIV/AIDS remission period of 10 years. Yet, this is the first case of remission starting in childhood and continuing through teenhood and adulthood perhaps.
The case made the attendees of the International AIDS Society conference taking place in Vancouver hopeful that a life without HIV/AIDS treatment is still possible, if the right combination of factors will ever be discovered.
The Paris-based teen is believed to have been infected with HIV while the mother was pregnant or during the girl’s birth. At the time, the standard treatment for HIV lasted for a period of 6 weeks and included one drug, zidovudine.
The treatment had little effect, with the girl still testing for high HIV levels in the blood. The doctors stepped the treatment up one notch, this time combining four different drugs. The treatment was administered until the girl was 6, when contact was lost. One year later, the girl came back accompanied by her mother, and showed no traces of HIV in the blood analysis, despite the mother having discontinued treatment.
The girl, now 18, never returned to treatment, thus being reported as the longest remission beginning in childhood. Sometimes, there are faint traces of HIV in the blood samples, but only under the most sensitive testing tools.
Sharon Lewin of the University of Melbourne, also present at the conference stated:
“It’s always hard to know, when you have a single case report, is there something about this particular individual that’s unique? What’s in the back of people’s minds is, would this have happened anyway, independent of her treatment?”.
For most of the specialist, the case of the 18 year old teen who is infected with HIV, but in remission, the most obvious indication is that treatment for HIV should be started as early as possible.
Before receiving the combination of drugs targeting HIV, the girl couldn’t suppress HIV on her own. Perhaps it was this particular combination that underpinned the remission.
Photo Credits womenpartners.org.au