A new variant of HIV discovered in the Netherlands is progressing faster.

The human immun­od­e­fi­cien­cy virus (HIV) infects and destroys immune cells called CD4 cells in the body, caus­ing the num­ber of these cells to drop. If left untreat­ed, the infec­tion then pro­gress­es to AIDS. In peo­ple infect­ed with the new vari­ant of HIV, called the VB vari­ant, the CD4 count drops about twice as fast as in peo­ple infect­ed with close­ly relat­ed strains of HIV, that is, those of the same sub­group. genet­ic type (B).

With­out treat­ment, vari­ant VB infec­tions would like­ly progress to AIDS, on aver­age, with­in two to three years of ini­tial HIV diag­no­sis, researchers report­ed Thurs­day (Feb­ru­ary 3) in the jour­nal Science.

With oth­er ver­sions of the virus, a sim­i­lar degree of decline occurs about six to sev­en years after diag­no­sis, on average.

“We found that, on aver­age, peo­ple with this vari­ant are expect­ed to progress from diag­no­sis to ‘advanced HIV’ in nine months, if they do not start treat­ment and if diag­nosed in their 30s,” said the first author. Chris Wymant, senior researcher in sta­tis­ti­cal genet­ics and pathogen dynam­ics at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Oxford, told Live Sci­ence in an email. Dis­ease pro­gres­sion would be even faster in an old­er per­son, he said.

For­tu­nate­ly, in their study, the team found that anti­retro­vi­ral drugs, the stan­dard treat­ment for HIV, work against the BV vari­ant as well as against oth­er ver­sions of the virus.

“For an indi­vid­ual on suc­cess­ful treat­ment, the dete­ri­o­ra­tion of the immune sys­tem to AIDS is halt­ed and the trans­mis­sion of its virus to oth­er indi­vid­u­als is halt­ed,” Wymant said.

“The authors use the case study to high­light the impor­tance of uni­ver­sal access to treat­ment,” said Katie Atkins, chan­cel­lor at Edin­burgh Med­ical School and asso­ciate pro­fes­sor at the Lon­don School of Hygiene and Trop­i­cal Med­i­cine who did not par­tic­i­pate in the study.

“Both because we want to direct­ly reduce the num­ber of peo­ple dying unnec­es­sar­i­ly from AIDS, but also as a means of reduc­ing the amount of virus in cir­cu­la­tion and there­fore reduc­ing the risk of emer­gence of new, more dead­ly vari­ants”, a- she told Live Sci­ence in an email. .

How the vari­ant was spot­ted
Wymant and infec­tious dis­ease epi­demi­ol­o­gist Christophe Fras­er, the study’s lead author, are both key mem­bers of the BEEHIVE project, an effort to bet­ter under­stand the biol­o­gy, evo­lu­tion and epi­demi­ol­o­gy of HIV.

“The BEEHIVE project, launched in 2014, was cre­at­ed to under­stand how changes in the virus, encod­ed in its genet­ics, cause dif­fer­ences in dis­ease,” Wymant said. “The project brings togeth­er data from sev­en nation­al HIV cohorts in Europe plus one in Uganda.”

When ana­lyz­ing data from the cur­rent study, the team iden­ti­fied 17 peo­ple infect­ed with a “dis­tinct” vari­ant of HIV, all of whom car­ried sur­pris­ing­ly high con­cen­tra­tions of the virus in their blood ear­ly in the infec­tion — between six months and two years after diag­no­sis. Fif­teen of those infect­ed came from the Nether­lands, one from Switzer­land and one from Belgium.

The new vari­ant belongs to genet­ic sub­type B, a group of relat­ed HIV virus­es most com­mon­ly found in Europe and the Unit­ed States, the team found. To see if they could find any oth­er exam­ples of the vari­ant in the Nether­lands, the researchers sift­ed through data from the nation­al HIV obser­va­tion cohort ATHENA,

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