A 9-year-old South African girl who was born with the AIDS virus has been in remission for more than eight years, despite not undergoing regular treatment.
The unidentified girl is the third reported case of someone achieving long-term remission after early, yet limited, treatment. Her case was discussed Monday at the 9th International AIDS conference on HIV Science in Paris.
The girl started HIV drugs when she was 2 months old and stopped 40 weeks later. By the time she was 9 years old, tests found signs of the virus in a small number of immune system cells, but none capable of reproducing. Because the girl doesn't have a gene mutation that gives her a natural resistance to the infection, the U.S.'s top AIDS scientist, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said her remission is likely due to early treatment.
"This is really very rare," Dr. Avy Violari, head of pediatric clinical trials at the Perinatal HIV Research Unit at the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa, told CNN.
Currently, there is no cure or vaccine against HIV, so those with the infection face lifelong treatment. So far, only one person who received a bone marrow transplant from a donor with natural resistance to HIV is thought to have been cured.
Transplants are often too risky, so researchers are focusing on finding ways for infected patients to achieve long-term remission instead. Because of cases like that of the South African girl, researchers are looking closely at how aggressive treatment soon after infection may lead to long-term remission in some patients.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.