Metro Weekly

Aggressive strain of HIV appears in Cuba

“They recently had more and more patients who were progressing much faster to AIDS than they were used to.”

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— Professor Anne-Mieke Vandamme, medical professor at the University of Leuvan in Belgium, speaking with Voice of America about a collaborative study with Cuban clinicians to investigate the outbreak of an aggressive new strain of the HIV virus, which can progress to AIDS less than three years after infection.

The study examined 70 HIV patients, dividing them into groups based on the stage of their infection.

“This group of patients that progressed very fast, they were all recently infected,” she said. “And we know that because they had been HIV negative tested one or a maximum two years before.”

Usually, when left untreated, HIV can take between five and ten years to progress to AIDS. This strain, called CRF19, is comprised of three different strains of the virus. According to Professor Vandamme, the patients with the aggressive strain had higher quantities of the HIV virus in their blood than patients with other strains. CRF19 responds to anti-retroviral drugs, but the aggressive speed of the virus relies on the individual confirming their diagnosis before lasting damage is caused to the immune system.

To read more about CRF19, including the reason for its aggressive infection rate, head over to the full interview at Voice of America.

Image Credit: C. Goldsmith Content Providers: CDC/ C. Goldsmith, P. Feorino, E. L. Palmer, W. R. McManus / Wikimedia

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Rhuaridh Marr is Metro Weekly's online editor. He can be reached at rmarr@metroweekly.com.

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