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Girl Believed to be Cured of HIV Tested Positive for the Virus

Update Date: Jul 11, 2014 09:23 AM EDT

The young miracle girl, dubbed the Mississippi Baby that doctors believed was cured of HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) recently tested positive for the virus. The discovery of detectable levels of the virus in her bloodstream was called a "disappointing setback" for HIV/AIDS research.

"It felt very much like a punch to the gut," Dr. Hannah Gay, a physician who treated the baby, said during a press conference Thursday reported by the Washington Post.

The girl, who is almost four-years-old now, had received aggressive, antiretroviral therapy 30 hours after she was born. The treatment had eradicated signs of the virus by the time she turned 18-months-old. The doctors then took her off the medication and believed that she was cured. However, after 27 months, she has relapsed.

During a routine visit, doctors tested the girls' blood sample. This time, they discovered detectable levels of HIV in the samples. The team carried out more tests and found that the girl's white blood cell count was down. The blood cell count and the presence of HIV antibodies indicated that the virus had indeed returned.

"Certainly, this is a disappointing turn of events for this young child, the medical staff involved in the child's care, and the HIV/AIDS research community," said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases according to Philly. "Scientifically, this development reminds us that we still have much more to learn about the intricacies of HIV infection and where the virus hides in the body."

Even though this relapse is disappointing, the researchers believe that the early and aggressive treatment was effective in limiting the progression of the virus. The research team will now "direct [their] attention to understanding why that is and determining whether the period of sustained remission in the absence of therapy can be prolonged even further," Dr. Fauci said.

The girl, who carries the same strain of HIV as her mother, is back on antiretroviral therapy.

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