A deadly and unrecognized mutation of THE HIV virus has been found over the years

2022-05-18 0 By

Scientists have discovered a previously unrecognized variant of HIV that is deadlier than usual and has been quietly spreading in the Netherlands over the past few decades.Thursday’s report was not shocking: HIV drugs work just as well in people with the mutated virus as anyone else, and transmission has been declining since 2010.It was discovered as part of an effort to better understand how HIV continues to evolve.The findings underscore the importance of good access to testing and treatment so that whatever the type, “HIV is suppressed as soon as possible to prevent transmission,” said Christophe Fraser, an epidemiologist at the University of Oxford and senior author of the study, in a statement.Different HIV subtypes circulate in different countries, some more severe or more easily transmissible than others.Subtype B is most common in the United States and Western Europe.When the Oxford team looked at a database of HIV patients in Europe, they found 17 abnormal cases — people who were more immunocompromised at the time of diagnosis and more infectious than is typical for subtype B.Because all but two of the cases originated in the Netherlands, the researchers next combed through thousands of Dutch records.They eventually identified 109 people infected with what they called the VB variant, which is used in the virulent B subtype.The cases date back to the 1990s and early 2000s, with a recent decline, researchers reported Thursday in the journal Science.The study found that patients with the VB variant had more virus in their blood and more immune system damage before treatment than those with other HIV variants.It is not clear which of the many genetic changes in the viruses is the cause, but after treatment they behave in the same way as other HIV patients.Joel Wertheim, an expert on virus evolution at the University of California, San Diego, warned in an accompanying Science editorial that finding the mutation is “not a public health crisis.”He was not part of the Oxford study.This “does not appear to have caused” a spike in HIV cases, Wertheim said in an email interview.But the finding highlights how much time remains to learn why long-circulating viruses “still have the potential to evolve and adapt.”As the current outbreak continues to remind us, we should not underestimate the potential for viral adaptation.”