HIV Variant Twice as Contagious and Severe Found by Researchers after Decades of it Circulating in the Netherlands!

HIV Variant Twice as Contagious and Severe Found by Researchers after Decades of it Circulating in the Netherlands!

It looks like a really contagious and aggressive variant of HIV has been spreading in the Netherlands for decades and scientists have finally identified it!
Just like coronavirus, the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome also known as HIV and which causes AIDS, has mutated into a number of different variants over time, one more dangerous than the other.
The newly identified variant has been dubbed as VB and it turns out that it can progress about twice as fast as other similar strains.
What this means is that people infected with VB risk developing AIDS within 2-3 years after getting diagnosed if they do not receive treatment, which is significantly quicker than the usual 6-7 year progression, as per researchers for the journal Science.
Associate professor of medicine at the University of California, San Diego, Joel Wertheim, wrote in a perspective published along with the new findings that this example of viral evolution comes with its own implications for the COVID-19 pandemic.
Wertheim, who was not directly involved in the study, shared via NPR that “We should never underestimate the potential for viral evolution. Let this study stand in stark contrast to the claim that all viruses will inevitably evolve to be benign.”
All HIV variants are able to attack the immune system in a similar way.
The virus latches onto CD4 cells or T cells, which are responsible for fighting infection, causing them to swell and then burst.
That being said, the researchers have discovered that the VB variant is able to make T cells explode twice as fast which leads to a much swifter decline of the immune system.
When the T cell count goes below a certain level, the patient is then considered to be immunocompromised with AIDS, which means they have a higher risk of life threatening infections of any kind.
As they were working on an initiative to further understand how HIV has been and continues to evolve known as the BEEHIVE project, researchers noted that 17 people in particular, had really high viral loads of infection.
Furthermore, the overwhelming majority of them, 15 to be exact, were from the Netherlands while the other two were from Belgium and Switzerland, respectively.
After studying 92 other people infected with the VB variant, the research team determined that the viral load is usually 3-4 times higher than in typical infections with HIV.
Lead author of the research, Chris Wymant, told NPR that the more virus in the body, the more contagious the individual is to others as well.
Thankfully, Wymant went on to mention that the standard antiretroviral drugs that are currently used to treat HIV still work to stop both the transmission and the progression of this far more dangerous variant.
If it is taken consistently, the standard medication can still lower the viral load to an undetectable level which means that many people infected with HIV can still lead healthy and normal lives.


Katherine is just getting her start as a journalist. She attended a technical school while still in high school where she learned a variety of skills, from photography to nutrition. Her enthusiasm for both natural and human sciences is real so she particularly enjoys covering topics on medicine and the environment.

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