A new very transmissible and a lot more damaging strain of HIV has been found in the Netherlands by researched partnering with Oxford. They are saying it is a “new virulent subtype B” – or “VB.”
A global study led by a team from Oxford’s Big Data Institute found 109 cases of the new disease after analyzing over 6,700 samples from people who positive for HIV. Information from the study were released this week in the journal Science. The scientists determined that the variant was circulating in the Netherlands for “some years“.
Their research found “significant” genome differences in the new VB strain and other variants of HIV. One had a much greater viral load, meaning the virus was more virulent and infectious.
“People with the VB variant possessed a viral load (the amount of the virus in the person’s blood) between 3.5 and 5.5 times greater,” the scientists reported. The results of their work have been released in the journal Science.
According to the science, the rate of cell decline – which is the mark of immune damage by the HIV virus – “happened twice as fast in people with the VB variant, putting them at risk of forming AIDS much more quickly.”
But more crucially: patients who had the VB strain also showed a boosted risk of transmitting the HIV virus to more people.
These findings confirm that scientists’ long-standing worries: that new mutated strains might make HIV-1 more infectious and more deadly. According to the Joint UN Program on AIDS, the virus already affects 38 million people across the globe, and 36 million people have passed away from AIDS-related problems since the beginning of the epidemic back in the 1980s.
Fortunately, new treatments are effective at suppressing this new VB strain, a sign that people infected with it would not see any big difference in their treatment or prognosis as people diagnosed with other strains. “There is no cause for alarm,” said Oxford doctor Chris Wymant, the author of the paper, during his interview with the AFP.
Also, the discovery of this VB variant should “be a huge warning to never be confident in saying viruses evolve to turn milder” Wymant stated.
It is a lesson that scientists should have already gotten from the delta variant of covid-19.