They discover a new, more contagious and aggressive variant of HIV

An international team of scientists from the University of Oxford has identified a new, more virulent and transmissible variant of HIV, which has been circulating in the Netherlands for the last few decades and has already infected more than 100 people.

According to a study published this Thursday in the journal Science, individuals infected with the new variant, baptized BV, have a viral load (the level of the virus in the blood) between 3.5 and 5.5 times higher than people who contract other strains of subtype B of HIV, which poses a higher risk of transmission.

In addition, the new variant has a greater reduction in CD4 cells, which increases the risk of developing AIDS much faster if left untreated: most people with HIV do so around 6 or 7 years after diagnosis, not However, those infected with BV develop the disease in 2 or 3 years.

Current treatment works

Although the researchers state that, after starting treatment, people with BV had similar immune system recovery and survival to individuals infected with other lineages of HIV, they stress that it is critical that people start treatment as soon as possible because because the new variant causes a more rapid decline in the immune system’s ability to respond.

“Our findings underscore the importance of World Health Organization guidance for people at risk of HIV to have access to regular testing that allows for early diagnosis, followed by prompt treatment,” said lead author Dr. epidemiologist Christophe Fraser. “This limits the time that HIV can damage a person’s immune system and put their health at risk. It also ensures that HIV is suppressed as soon as possible, which prevents transmission to others,” he added. .

The discovery of the new HIV lineage

The new variant was first identified in 17 people, 15 of whom were from the Netherlands, prompting the researchers to analyze data on thousands of Dutch people who had contracted HIV. Thus, another 92 individuals with the variant were identified, bringing the total to 109.

By analyzing the genomes of different samples of this form of the virus, the researchers estimate that the VB variant first emerged in the late 1980s and 1990s in the Netherlands, but its spread has been declining in that country, for reasons not yet clarified, since approximately 2010.

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