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Press release Published on 8.2.2022, 15:24

Researchers have found a new HIV variant that leads to AIDS faster than before

Keywords:
  • aids
  • hiv
  • research

An international research group has identified a new HIV variant VB which is more contagious and whose development from HIV infection to the AIDS phase is half as short as that of other HI viruses. HIV medication has the same effect on VB variant as on other strains of HI virus.

Researchers at HUS Infectious Diseases and the University of Helsinki are involved in the international study that identified the new VB variant of the HI virus. The newly found variant has a higher pathogenicity, i.e., virulence, than other known HI viruses. Those carrying the VB variant have 3.5 to 5.5 times more HIV in their blood than other HIV-infected, and the variant is more contagious. The time it takes for the HIV infection to develop into the AIDS phase is half as short. HIV medication has the same effect on VB variant as on other strains of HI virus.

Early diagnosis of HIV infection and early initiation of medication prevent immunological damage

The research samples were collected from different countries from infection chains in which it had been possible to accurately describe the impact of contagious HIV strains on the course of HIV in the infected and thus compare the impact of differences between different strains and virus strains on the course of HIV infections.

Almost all the 109 people with a diagnosed HIV infection caused by VB variant have been from the Netherlands. The VB variant was able to develop in the 1990s in the Netherlands despite HIV medication. The development of the variant was not related to HIV medication.

It was previously believed that HIV’s genetic variants affect its pathogenicity. The new study confirms this assumption.

The findings of the study highlight that an early diagnosis of HIV infection and an early initiation of HIV medication prevent the immunological damage caused by the disease to the infected person. WHO also recommends this approach. Early initiation of HIV medication also prevents the spread of HIV infection because medicated HIV is not contagious. The results of the study may be useful in developing HIV medication with new mechanisms.

The principal investigators of the study are from England, the Netherlands and France. HUS researchers were invited to participate in the research group, as the timing and impact of HIV infections that spread among drug users in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area at the turn of the millennium have been documented fairly accurately according to international standards.

Research article "A highly virulent variant of HIV-1 circulating in the Netherlands"

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