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New HIV Strain

    Aug-07-2009

In a major discovery, scientists have detected a new descent of the virus that sets off AIDS in a woman from Cameroon in Africa. According to a recent research report published in the latest edition of the journal Nature Medicine, the new breed of the virus is unlike the three identified strains of human immunodeficiency bugs and seems to be intimately associated with a variety of primate or simian virus that has been lately found in wild gorillas. In fact, the three different strains of viruses that have been identified earlier are also linked to the simian bug that crop up among chimpanzees.

Commenting on the new finding, Jean-Christophe Plantier of the University of Rouen in France who led the research team stated that the new discovery emphasizes the enduring requirement to minutely observe as well as look for the surfacing of new HIV variations, especially in the western and central regions of the African continent.

Elucidating the presence of the simian variety of the AIDS bug on the woman in Cameroon, members of the research team headed by Plantier said that it was possibly owing to a gorilla to human transmission of the virus. At the same time, the researchers did not rule out the possibility of the virus strain originally starting in chimpanzees and then moving on to gorillas before being transmitted to the woman. They also said that it was likely that the virus strain could have been straight away transmitted from chimpanzees to humans as well as gorillas at the same time.

The 62-year-old woman had tested positive for HIV soon after she shifted to Paris from Cameroon in 2004. According to the researchers, the patient lived near Cameroon's capital city Yaoundé and insisted that she had no contact whatsoever either with apes or bush meat - mutton obtained from wild animals in tropical regions. The researchers said that although the woman does not have any symptoms of AIDS and is still not being treated, she continues to carry the virus.

The scientists are yet to ascertain the extent of prevalence of this AIDS virus strain, but are of the view that the bug may be passing around unobserved in Cameroon or other regions. The researchers further said that the quick rate of reproduction of the virus seems to be a sign of the fact that it has already become accustomed to human cells.

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The French Health Watch Institute, the French National Agency for Research on AIDS and Viral Hepatitis and the Rouen University Hospital has endorsed the research undertaken by these scientists led by Jean-Christophe Plantier. It may be mentioned here that another paper published in the journal Nature Medicine states that people having genital herpes (a sexually transmitted disease caused by the herpes simplex viruses or HSV type 1 and type 2) are at a greater risk of HIV contagion even after the sores of the genital herpes are cured and the skin seems to be as usual.

Another team of scientists led by Dr. Jia Zhu and Dr. Lawrence Corey of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center have discovered that the area of the skin where the herpes sores were present may still have immune-cell actions that are capable of promoting HIV contagion even a long time after the herpes sores have been cleaned and the skin appears to be normal.

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It may be mentioned here that herpes have a tendency to reappear and have been related to significantly higher frequency of HIV infection. Earlier, scientists believed that the rashes on the skin were responsible for more frequent rate of HIV occurrence, but a research undertaken in the previous year has discovered that even though herpes sores were cured with drugs, they did not lessen the risk of HIV infection. The researchers examined the skin of herpes patients for a number weeks even after their sores had been cured and detected that the presence of immune cells was approximately two-fold to 37 times in the areas where the sores had occurred in comparison to other genital skin.

It has been found that the immune cells are the targets of HIV. Furthermore, laboratory tests have shown that the AIDS virus replicated three to five times quicker in tissue obtained from where the herpes sores were cured than in the tissues from other places. According to Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, having come to learn that even the cured herpes infections make a cellular background favorable for HIV infection available implies new trends for research on prevention of HIV contagion.

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