Highly Virulent, Yet Treatable HIV Variant Silently Making Rounds Since 90s

Story Highlights
  • Researchers at press conference in Oxford on Thursday announced the finding.
  • The virulent variant is called VB variant of HIV- reportedly suppresses the immune system rapidly.
  • The variant was detected through a study of HIV databases that dates back to 1990.

Washington: A slew of studies claims to have detected a highly virulent strain of HIV that has been lurking in the Netherlands for decades but remained suppressed due to the modern treatments.

An analysis published on Thursday showed that patients diagnosed with HIV were infected with ‘VB variant’, which accounted for five times higher levels of the virus in their blood than those infected with other variants.

During the press release, Chris Wymant, Oxford Epidemiologist also the leading author of the research paper said that there’s no cause for alarm with this new viral variant. The press statement cautioned the mob stating that the rapid immune system decline was a key factor of the variant which makes it critical that individuals are diagnosed early and treated.

After scouring a database of HIV patients, the researchers identified 109 people in total with identical or near-identical genetic sequences, dating back to the 1990s. The 109 are out of the 6,706 participants in the AIDS Therapy Evaluation in the Netherlands (ATHENA) cohort which is part of the Bridging the Epidemiology and Evolution of HIV in Europe (and Uganda), also known as BEEHIVE, project.

The variant belongs to a family of HIV strains known as B subtypes, accounting for about 12 per cent of global HIV infections. However, is the most common in North America and Western Europe.

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