New Aggressive, Fast-Developing Strain Of HIV Found In Cuba
Mary Nichols , Design & Trend Contributor
Feb, 14, 2015, 10:03 PM
A new HIV strain identified in some patients in Cuba appears to be much more aggressive and faster developing than usual - developing into AIDS within three years of infection.
Researchers said the progression happens so fast that treatment with antiretroviral drugs may come too late, writes UPI.
Without treatment, HIV infection generally takes 5 to 10 years to turn into AIDS, according to Anne-Mieke Vandamme, a medical professor at Belgium's University of Leuvan.
According to the study, published in the journal EBioMedicine, Vandamme was alerted to the new aggressive strain of HIV by Cuban health officials who wanted to know what was happening.
"So this group of patients that progressed very fast, they were all recently infected," Vandamme explained to Voice of America.
"And we know that because they had been HIV negative tested one or a maximum two years before."
None of the patients had received treatment for the virus, and within three years all of the patients infected with the mutated strain of HIV had developed AIDS.
While fast progression of HIV to AIDS is usually the result of the patient's weak immune system rather than the particular subtype of HIV - the situation in Cuba appears to be different.
"Here we had a variant of HIV that we found only in the group that was progressing fast. Not in the other two groups. We focused in on this variant [and] tried to find out what was different. And we saw it was a recombinant of three different subtypes."
The new variant, known as CRF19 is a combination of HIV subtypes A, D and G.
HIV infects cells by attaching itself to a co-receptor, and the transition to AIDS usually occurs when the virus switches from co-receptor CCR5 to co-receptor CXCR4, which usually takes many years.
But this new strain makes the switch much faster.
The variant has been observed in Africa, but the cases have been too few cases for researchers to fully study.
Researchers said the strain is more widespread in Cuba.
While the aggressive form of HIV responds to most antiretroviral drugs, people may not realize they have AIDS until it's too late for treatments to be effective.
Vandamme said it's vital for people having unprotected sex with multiple partners to be tested for HIV early and often.