According to a new study that published this week in the EbioMedicine journal this week, a rapidly progressing HIV strain was found in Cuba. If left untreated, patients can develop AIDS (which is the final stage) within three years.
This new strain, which is a combination of three HIV subtypes, has been detected among patients in Cuba who got infected through unprotected sexual intercourse with multiple partners and then developed AIDS unusually fast. Usually, patients develop AIDS 6 to 10 years after being infected.
The study was conducted on 73 Cuban patients who were tested for HIV 3 years before the diagnosis and had a negative result. Out of the total number of participants, 52 were in the AIDS stage. The patients had not been treated with any HIV medication. Their blood samples were compared those of patients who had developed AIDS after more than three years since getting infected.
The results are a cause of concern for AIDS researchers as mutated human immunodeficiency viruses are harder to diagnose. This means that people who get infected with this strain might obtain the treatment when it’s already too late.
On top of that, the risk of these mutated versions to develop resistance to antiretroviral therapy is higher, thus complicating the process of designing a vaccine.
Hector Bolivar, a University of Miami Miller School of Medicine physician specialized in infectious disease explained that scientists know about the virus’ capacity of mutating. As a result of this phenomenon, there are 60 HIV type 1 strains.
More research needs to be conducted on the subject of this new strain. Due to this study’s small number of participants, the results can’t be extrapolated to the total number people in Cuba infected with HIV.
In addition to this, Bolivar considers the study insufficiently accurate. For example, the research did not specify when the subjects were infected.
Bolivar is now waiting to see if other similar studies will obtain the same results although he thinks it will be difficult. He explained why:
“It’s very difficult for us in the United States or Europe or many places where there are treatments (for HIV) to replicate these findings in the long term because it’s unethical to wait until someone progresses until they can no longer benefit from treatment.”
Image Source: RT