Scientists have discovered a new HIV variant that is more dangerous than the usual. It has been quietly circulated in the Netherlands for many decades, according to scientists.
The Thursday report is not alarming. HIV medications worked equally well in those with the mutated virus than they did in everyone else, and its spread has been decreasing since 2010. It was found as part of ongoing research to understand HIV’s evolution.
This finding highlights the importance of having access to treatment and testing so that HIV can be suppressed quickly.
Different HIV subtypes circulate across different countries. Some are more severe and transmissible than others. The most prevalent subtype in America and Western Europe is Subtype B. The Oxford team discovered 17 cases that were unusual while looking at a database of European HIV-positive patients. These people had more immune damage than normal and were more infectious than the norm for subtype B.
The researchers then searched thousands of Dutch records to find the remaining cases, with only two exceptions. The researchers eventually found a group of 109 infected people with the VB variant, which is the virulent subtype A.
Researchers reported that the cases date back to 1990s and 2000s and have declined in recent years, Science journal reports.
The study revealed that people with the VB variant of HIV had more virus in their blood than others and suffered more damage to their immune systems before treatment. Although it is not known which viral genetic change caused the VB variant, they performed the same after treatment as other HIV patients.
Joel Wertheim, a University of California, San Diego viral evolution expert, warned that this variant is not a health emergency. He was not part of the Oxford research.
Wertheim stated in an email interview that it “doesn’t appear to have caused a spike in HIV cases.” This finding shows how much we still have to learn about the reasons a virus that has been spreading for so long “still has the potential of evolving and adapting.” We shouldn’t underestimate viral adaptation, as the current pandemic reminds us.