Health News of 2013-12-05

West Africa harbours a new strain of HIV - Research

Researchers at Sweden’s Lund University have discovered a new strain of HIV virus called A3/02, which is a fusion of two most common HIV strains in Guinea-Bissau.

The strain causes significantly faster progression to AIDS in roughly 5 years than most other strains of HIV that take closer to eight years to progress to AIDS.

Angelica Palm, one of the scientists responsible for the study published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases said individuals who are infected with the new strain develop AIDS within five years, and that's about two to two-and-a-half years faster than one of the parent strains.

She said the recombinant virus strain originate when a person is infected by two different strains, whose DNA fuse to create a new form.

Angelica Palm said there have been some studies that indicate that whenever there is a so-called recombinant, it seems to be more competent or aggressive than the parental strains.

"The good news is that as far as we know the medicines that are available today are equally functional on all different subtypes of variants," she added.

According to researchers, the speed with which A3/02 leads to people falling ill from AIDS does not impact on the effectiveness of medication on infected individuals.

Patrik Medstrand, Professor of Clinical Virology at Lund University said it is highly likely that there are a large number of circulating strains of which we know little or nothing about.

The study warns that such recombinants may be spreading fast, especially in regions with high levels of immigration.

The strain was first discovered by the Swedish team in Guinea-Bissau in 2011 during a long-term follow-up of HIV-positive people in the country.

According to UNAIDS, an estimated 240,000 people in Ghana live with HIV which destroys the immune system. An estimated 12000 people have died due to AIDS which has a prevalence rate of 1.4% in the country.

Existing treatments help infected people live longer, healthier lives by delaying and subduing symptoms, but do not cure AIDS.