Researchers have discovered a more contagious and more critically circulating HIV mutant in the Netherlands

HIV budding color virus

HIV attaches to human cells.CDC / public domain

  • Researchers have identified variants of HIV that progress to AIDS twice as fast as previous versions.

  • People infected with the VB variant have a high viral load and are more likely to infect others.

  • Existing antiretroviral treatments for HIV remain effective against newly discovered mutants.

A highly aggressive and infectious variant of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) has been quietly prevalent in the Netherlands for decades, and researchers have finally identified it.

Like the coronavirus, some viruses that cause AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) are more dangerous than other viruses and have been mutated into numerous variants. A newly discovered mutant strain called VB appears to progress about twice as fast as a closely related strain.

Researchers write in the journal that individuals infected with the VB mutant are more likely to develop AIDS within 2-3 years of diagnosis if not treated, rather than the usual 6-7 years of progression. I am. Chemistry..

This striking example of viral evolution affects the pandemic of COVID-19, writes Joel Weertheim, an associate professor at the University of California, San Diego. perspective It was published on Thursday with the findings.

“We must not underestimate the potential for viral evolution,” said Wertheim, who was not involved in the study. NPR.. “This study is in stark contrast to the claim that all viruses inevitably evolve to benign.”

Doubly aggressive and highly contagious

All variants of HIV attack the immune system in a similar way. The virus latches on CD4 cells (also called T cells), a type of white blood cell that carries the charge for infection, causing them to swell and rupture.

Researchers have found that VB mutants explode those cells twice as fast, leading to a more rapid decline in immune function. When the CD4 count falls below a certain level, the person is considered infected with AIDS and is more susceptible to life-threatening infections.

While working on the BEEHIVE project, an initiative to understand how HIV continues to evolve, researchers have noticed that 17 individuals have particularly high viral load in the early stages of infection. rice field. Fifteen of those individuals were from the Netherlands and the other two were from Switzerland and Belgium.

After studying another 92 people infected with the VB mutant, researchers determined that viral load tended to be three or four times higher than typical HIV infections. The high levels of virus in the body mean that the host is more susceptible to infecting others, lead author Chris Wimant told NPR.

Fortunately, the standard antiretroviral drugs used to treat HIV work to stop the infection and progression of VB mutants, he said. When taken consistently, the drug may reduce viral load to undetectable levels. Many people infected with HIV can lead a normal and healthy life..

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