The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated that virus mutations could drastically alter a pathogen’s infectiousness and illness severity.
A new study from the University of Oxford has discovered A New HIV Strain, the AIDS-causing virus, that is possibly more contagious and could significantly impact the immune system.
The variation has been found in 109 people so far, most of whom live in the Netherlands.
- In the Netherlands, a new HIV strain has been detected.
- The VB variant strain appears to induce more severe illness at a faster rate.
- A higher viral burden was also linked to this strain.
This new HIV strain type causes sickness to spread twice as quickly.
The new strain, known as the VB variant, kills the immune system, reducing people’s capacity to fight common illnesses and diseases considerably faster than previous HIV strains, according to experts.
It also suggests that those who contract the new HIV strain are more likely to develop AIDS sooner.
VB has a viral load (the amount of virus found in the blood) that is 3.5 to 5.5 times higher than the current strain, meaning it is more dangerous.
The immune system was harmed twice as rapidly
RESEARCHERS SAY THAT IN PEOPLE WITH THE VARIANT, CD4+T CELL DECLINE (an indication of HIV-related immunological damage) WAS TWICE AS FAST.
“By the time they were diagnosed, these individuals were at risk of developing AIDS within 2 to 3 years,” the researchers found.
Patients in their 30s with the VB variant are expected to have critically low CD4 cell counts “with long-term clinical ramifications” 9 months following diagnosis if they do not get treatment.
“The power of the VB variant to enhance transmission, weaken the immune system, and disrupt therapy is a reminder of how cunning the virus is evolving,” Anthony J. stated.
HIV testing kit is an important tool in the fight against the virus
When asked what the variant implies in testing recommendations for at-risk populations, William A. Haseltine, Ph.D., head, and president of ACCESS Health International, a global health think tank, replied it depended on people’s behavior.
Haseltine, who has written several books, including Variants: The Shape-Shifting Challenge of COVID-19, said, “I realized early in the course of AIDS that human behavior is a lot more changeable than I thought.”
He added that it depends on your behavior and how many different partners you have, adding that persons who have several relationships should get tested more frequently.
Former FDA deputy commissioner Peter Pitts, now the director of the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest, feels VB isn’t a cause for alarm.
“I feel it is a cause for fresh attention,” he said. “We’ve been able to turn HIV/AIDS from a fatal disease to a chronic one.”
“The fight against viruses is a never-ending war,” he continued. “From the sense of public health, I believe we should prioritize preventative care.”
One of COVID-19’s lessons, according to Pitts, is that testing is an “underappreciated weapon against viruses,” and that it should serve as a reminder that by testing more frequently, we can build better, more complex, and less expensive tests.
Testing and current therapies will continue to keep the condition under control.
Dr. Carl Fichtenbaum, a clinical medicine professor at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine’s Division of Infectious Diseases, told Healthline that it had been recognized for decades that some people get sick faster than others.
“The quantity of virus in a drop of blood can be used to forecast the severity of an infection.” “The higher the quantity, the more likely someone maybe,” Fichtenbaum says advance and become unwell.”
“We believe this is due to the type of HIV they received being more aggressive or virulent,” he said. “Regardless of the variation, our approach is the same: get tested straight away and start treatment.”
He said there’s “no indication” that the present medicines aren’t effective.
According to Fichtenbaum, lowering the risk of infection starts with using a condom or other barrier technique during sex.
“Know your HIV status and that of the people with whom you have sex by being tested first; use condoms for intercourse, and don’t share needles or injectable drug paraphernalia,” he said. Pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, can be used by those who are at a higher risk.
According to Fichtenbaum, FDA-approved HIV therapies include a daily tenofovir/emtricitabine combination tablet and cabotegravir injections every two months.
“Those who have HIV can take their drugs and have a viral load that is ‘undetectable,’ which eliminates the risk of HIV transmission,” he said. “As a result, the tagline U=U (undetected equals untransmittable) was created.”
Researchers have found a novel HIV variety known as VB. This variant is more infectious and transmissible than current HIV strains. There is no reason to be concerned about VB, according to experts, because present treatments are still effective. They also claim that using a condom or other barrier device during intercourse and taking PrEP medicine are the best ways to avoid catching or transmitting the virus.
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