U.S-Cuba "Relations" UPDATE: HIV strain that becomes AIDS in 3 years identified in Cuba
It usually takes HIV-positive patients five to 10 years to develop AIDS, but this aggressive variant can progress before a person realizes he or she is infected, according to a new study.
A strain of HIV that could develop into AIDS before patients realize they are infected has been identified in Cuba.
The aggressive variant was seen in patients who developed AIDS within three years of contacting the virus, according to a new study. It usually takes five to 10 years.
“This group of patients that progressed very fast, they were all recently infected,” lead researcher Anne-Mieke Vandamme told Voice of America. “We know that because they had been HIV-negative tested one or a maximum two years before.”
HIV develops into AIDS when a person’s CD4 count, which reflects white blood cells, falls below 200 or the patient gets a disease that wouldn’t affect someone with a healthy immune system.
Vandamme, a medical professor at Belgium's University of Leuven, and her team studied 95 recently infected Cuban patients. They pinpointed a mutated strain of HIV that was only present in the small group who developed AIDS quickly.
The variant is a combination of three subtypes of HIV. This can happen when someone contracts multiple strains of HIV, which then combine inside the body, researchers said.
The HIV strain had been seen in Africa, but is more widespread in Cuba, researchers said.
It responds to virus-fighting drugs, but it may progress into full-blown AIDS before the patient discovers he or she is infected, Vandamme warns.