According to new research carried out by Dr. Zabrina Brumme and Dr. Jeff Joy from the Simon Fraser University and the BC Center for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, new mutated HIV strains progress faster in Saskatchewan Indigenous populations triggering AIDS-related illnesses.
The results of the study were presented yesterday at the 2018 AIDS Conference in Amsterdam, where Dr. Zabrina Brumme, the study’s leading author said that “the physicians were saying, ‘there’s something going on here that isn’t right, people are getting sick very, very fast. It’s almost as if the virus is nastier.”
The mutated HIV strains in Saskatchewan present higher levels of immune-resistant mutations in comparison to similar HIV strains that affect other regions of Canada and the United States.
Also, the Saskatchewan region presents the highest HIV incidence rates in North America, and more than 80% of the HIV-positive people are from Indigenous populations. That because the new HIV strains developed immune-resistant mutations adapted to the immune profiles of Indigenous people in Saskatchewan.
Mutated HIV strains in Saskatchewan progress faster in local Indigenous populations
“In Saskatchewan, like other places in the world, HIV is adapting to the host populations in which it is circulating. In Saskatchewan, the majority of HIV-affected persons are of Indigenous ancestry so HIV, as a result, has adapted to these populations,” said Dr. Zabrina Brumme.
To find out the cause of this higher incidence among First Nations, the researchers compared over 2,300 HIV sequences from Saskatchewan with other samples from different regions in Canada and the United States.
They analyzed more than 70 mutations but only one, in particular, appeared in over 80% of the Saskatchewan HIV strains in comparison to only 25% in other samples of HIV from Canada and the US.
Also, more than 98% of the mutated HIV strains in Saskatchewan presented significant immune-resistant mutations.
According to Dr. Jeff Joy from the BC Center for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, the new results are worrisome, but if people do HIV tests and found positive, the current treatments are still functioning against immune-resistant mutated HIV strains.