A 18-year-old French woman is in remission from HIV after 12 years without taking medication against the virus, shedding new light on options for treating HIV in childhood.
Doctors presented their case and its findings at an International Aids Society (IAS) conference in Vancouver, B.C., on Monday.
The woman was born with HIV in 1996 and underwent intensive drug therapy, beginning with four anti-retroviral drugs at three months, the BBC reported. HIV levels were practically undetectable in the patient's blood since she was 21 months old, and at age six, her family stopped treatments altogether, The Washington Post reported.
"With this first, highly documented case of this young woman, we provide the proof of concept that long-term remission is possible in children, as in adults," Asier Sáez-Cirión, assistant professor at the Pasteur Institute in Paris and researcher behind the case, said in a statement.
Although the virus levels are too low to be accounted for, doctors warn that this does not translate to having been cured of the virus.
"This girl is in remission," Sáez-Cirión said to The Washington Post. "She's not cured," he added, pointing to the fact that the nature of her remission is still not entirely known.
"This is an event that happens once in a while, and it doesn't happen to most people," David Margolis, a molecular biologist and HIV researcher at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill said to BuzzFeed News.
Monday's findings, however, still present hope for researchers working towards finding HIV treatments.
"This is an inspiring story for those of us working in this field, and for everyone living with HIV," Sharon Lewin, a professor from Australia's University of Melbourne said to the BBC.
Francoise Barre-Sinoussi, the French virologist who won the Nobel Prize after discovering HIV, said larger studies are key.
"We need to try to find other cases--and find out their markers, to see whether we can predict remission," she told the BBC.
The 18-year-old's case makes the first finding of long-term remission from the virus in a child.
Photo Credit: Optigan13/Wikimedia Commons