New, More Aggressive HIV Mutation Discovered in Cuba

By | Feb 15, 2015 09:46 AM EST

HIV in color(Photo : Wikipedia)

A new strain of HIV (Human Imunodeficiency Virus) detected in Cuba can mutate into AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome) after only three years.

Medical experience with HIV shows this collection of diseases normally transforms into HIV anywhere from six to 10 years without proper treatment. The Cuban HIV can accelerate this transformation into AIDS much faster, hence the concern among the medical community.

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According to researchers from the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium, this strain of HIV progresses so rapidly that those infected by the mutation won't have time to seek antiretroviral treatment until it becomes full blown AIDS.

AIDS researchers from the U.S. are alarmed by this new finding since the mutated HIV viruses are harder to detect and diagnose. The strain can even become resistant to therapy and can prove challenging to the development of a proper vaccine to counter it.

The HIV research community has known about the capability of this strain to mutate rapidly for some time, according to Hector Bolivar, an infectious disease specialist from the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. There are now 60 strains of HIV type 1 caused by mutations.

Anne-Mieke Vandamme, a professor from the Catholic University of Leuven, said she and her team traveled to Cuba after they heard of reports of rising HIV cases that suddenly transformed into AIDS.

For the study, Vandamme and her team recruited patients from the Institute for Tropical Medicine Pedro Kouri in Havana who tested negative for HIV three years prior to diagnosis and therapy. Upon studying the blood of 73 patients recently infected with HIV, 52 were diagnosed with AIDS and 21 without AIDS.

These results were then compared to blood samples from 22 patients now suffering from AIDS after harbring HIV for more than three years. The patients never received therapy prior to this study however.

Those infected with the HIV mutation progressed into AIDS in three years. Patients infected with HIV normally develop AIDS within six to 10 years.

Researchers also warn that those who engage in unprotected sex with multiple partners have an increased risk of infection from multiple strains of HIV. Once contracted, the mutation can combine with the host and develop and recombine into another new strain.

This study was published in the journal, EBioMedicine.

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