15 March, 2022
A news story has stated that a new HIV variant mutation was discovered in the Netherlands last month. This mutation appears to be more transmissible and can cause more damage to the host’s immune system in less time than other HIV variants, (ScienceDaily).
‘HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is a virus that damages the cells in your immune system and weakens your ability to fight everyday infections and disease,’ (NHS). The new variant has been nicknamed the VB variant (virulent subtype B). When the VB variant infects a new individual, there are significant differences to other HIV infections that can be seen, these include:
- A higher viral load, usually between 3.5 and 5.5 higher than regular HIV infections.
- A decline in the rate of CD4 cells occurred twice as fast in the individuals with the VB variant.
- Individuals with the new variant can also transmit HIV faster.
The human immunodeficiency viruses type 1 and type 2 (HIV 1+2) are the etiological agents of the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) and related conditions. HIV has been isolated from patients with AIDS, AIDS related complex (ARC) and from healthy individuals at high risk for AIDS. Infection with HIV is followed by an acute flu-like illness. This phase may remain unnoticed and the relationship to HIV infection may not be clear in many cases. The acute phase is typically followed by an asymptomatic carrier state, which progresses to clinical AIDS in about 50% of infected individuals within 10 years after seroconversion.
Despite this variant being discovered and named in 2022, researchers now believe that this specific variant of HIV could have arose in the 1990s, (Science.org). The new VB variant has been labelled as ‘highly virulent’ but researchers say there is no need for concern due to the effectiveness of modern treatments for the virus, (France 24).
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has already disrupted health services worldwide, therefore making the finding and cataloguing of new mutations and variants of diseases and viruses extremely difficult. Despite this, scientists from the University of Oxford have been able to identify and research the VB mutation of HIV and report on it to alert the public.
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