For more than two years, it seemed too good to be true. And now it turns out that a Mississippi baby thought to have been cured of HIV wasn't cured after all, reports NBC News. The girl, now 4, tested positive last week and is back on antiretroviral drugs. The case made international headlines last year: After the baby was born to a mother with HIV, doctors put her on aggressive drug treatment just 30 hours after birth. The mother, however, stopped giving her daughter the drugs at 18 months. The baby missed several months of treatment, and when doctors finally saw her again, they were stunned to discover that she had barely detectable levels of HIV. In effect, she was "functionally cured," recounts CNN. That remained the case until last week.
“It felt very much like a punch to the gut,” says Dr. Hannah B. Gay, who treats the girl. “It was disappointing from the scientific standpoint because we had been hopeful it would lead to bigger and better things, but mainly for the sake of the child who is back on medicine and expected to remain on medicine for a very long time.” HIV hides in reservoirs of the body, and antiretroviral drugs keep it in check there, explains the Boston Globe. Its reemergence in this case shows that doctors have much to learn about those reservoirs, says Anthony Fauci, chief of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. It's not all bad news, though: The girl got to be a toddler without having to take a daily cocktail of drugs, and her case holds out hope of improving on the treatment. (Doctors are keeping an eye on another "functionally cured" baby in California.)