IAS 2015An 18-year-old French teenager who contracted HIV from her mother has maintained control of the virus for 12 years after stopping antiretroviral (ARV) treatment, the Associated Press reports. The case report was presented at the 8th International AIDS Society Conference on HIV Pathogenesis, Treatment and Prevention in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Over a dozen adult members of the French VISCONTI cohort have remained in a similar state of viral remission for a median decade after stopping treatment they started soon after contracting the virus. This is the first example of such highly long-term remission in someone infected at birth. (The famed Mississippi Child, who contracted HIV from her own mother and was immediately treated with an aggressive cocktail of ARVs, eventually spent 27 months off treatment before experiencing a major viral rebound.)

The French teenager was born to a woman who did not have her HIV under control while pregnant. Clinicians believe the child was infected at birth. She was given Retrovir (zidovudine, AZT) for six weeks (the standard prophylaxis for infants in that era) and then, when tests showed she still had a high viral load, she was switched to a four-drug ARV regimen.

When the girl was 6 years old her mother and her dropped out of care for a year. Upon their return, the mother said she had stopped giving her daughter ARVs. Because clinicians could not detect the virus in the girl’s system, they decided to keep her off treatment.

The girl’s viral load rose briefly once, when she was 11 years old, and then resolved without any medical intervention. Her viral load has otherwise remained undetectable throughout the past 12 years, at least according to standard tests. Highly sensitive assays can still find extremely low levels of virus.

Researchers stress that the girl is not considered cured, but in a state of what they characterize as viral remission.

The girl does not have variants of genes or other indicators found in individuals who can control the virus naturally, nor was she able to control HIV at the very beginning of her life without combination therapy. Consequently, researchers believe that early treatment is the reason for her long-term viral remission.

To read the AP article, click here.