Researchers from the University of Oxford’s Big Data Institute developed an international collaborative study, where 109 cases of the new ‘virulent subtype B’ (VB) variant were detected after analyzing 6 700 positive samples. The study revealed significant genome differences between the VB strain and other HIV variants.
According to scientists' statements, “individuals with the VB variant had a viral load (the level of the virus in the blood) between 3.5 and 5.5 times higher.” The journal Science released the results of their research.
The decrease of the CD4 cell, which is the hallmark of HIV affecting the immune system, “occurred twice as fast in individuals with the VB variant, placing them at risk of developing AIDS much more rapidly.” The patients who hosted the VB strain presented an increase in the risk of virus transmission.
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Through these conclusions, the concerns about the new mutations that could make the HIV-1 virus even more infectious and more dangerous were confirmed. The Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS estimates that the new variant has already infected 38 million people worldwide.
“Reassuringly, after starting treatment, individuals with the VB variant had similar immune system recovery and survival to individuals with other HIV variants,” the study revealed.