Mississippi baby's HIV relapse won't affect handling of LA case

Scanning electromicrograph of an HIV-infected T cell.
Scanning electromicrograph of an HIV-infected T cell.
NIAID/flickr Creative Commons

Listen to story

Download this story 0MB

The reappearance of HIV in the Mississippi baby thought to have been cured has discouraged researchers, but it has not changed the way doctors will handle a similar case in the Los Angeles area.

The L.A. baby -- who like the Mississippi baby was born HIV-positive and then became free of the virus after early administration of drugs -- is now a little over a year old and "doing extremely well," said Dr. Yvonne Bryson, a pediatric infectious disease expert at UCLA who has been helping to manage the case. The girl is given three AIDS drugs twice a day.

"The baby has remained negative, but the caution is, it’s really even too early to say this baby is in remission because the baby is still on therapy," Bryson said.

While disappointed about the turn of events in Mississippi, Bryson said that won’t affect the L.A. baby’s treatment plan, noting that doctors will continue her medication regimen and monitor her closely. Bryson said it has not been decided whether to stop giving the baby drugs at some point.

That question, she said, points to the need for more research into the very early treatment of babies born with HIV.

"We’re learning from the Mississippi baby, as we will learn from the child here in Los Angeles, more about if there are predictive factors as to what works and what doesn’t work," Bryson said.

Bryson is co-chair of an international clinical trial on the issue that was set to begin this week. But it’s been delayed, following news of the Mississippi baby’s relapse.

When the Los Angeles baby’s mother was set to give birth last April, doctors took their cues from the case of the Mississippi baby – who was started on AIDS drugs when she was about one day old.

Doctors at Miller Children’s Hospital in Long Beach started even earlier. They gave the L.A. baby’s mother AIDS drugs during labor, and administered the first dose to the HIV-positive girl just four hours after birth.

By the time the L.A. baby was six days old, she showed no signs of the virus.