A prevalent strain of HIV has evolved and expanded in a manner that probably makes it more infectious, a new study has found. Scientists fear that the new strain could exploit its hosts more ‘efficiently’.
Scientists at the Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research in Bangalore have found the emergence and expansion of three to five new strains of HIV-1 subtype C, replacing the standard viral strain.
The study is perhaps the first of its kind to identify that a major family of HIV-1 is undergoing evolutionary modifications. “We have found that in India, over the past decade, the HIV-1 subtype C has acquired an even stronger viral promoter and is expanding at a substantial rate, replacing the standard subtype C strains,” Dr Mahesh said.
“The new strains could be more infectious, but not more pathogenic,” said Dr Bachu Mahesh, the lead author of the study, published last month in the Journal of Biological Chemistry. Maintaining that this would not have an effect on the cost of treatment of AIDS, he said the findings must be confirmed through clinical studies.
Significantly, December 1 is World Aids Day. India has 2.7 million HIV-hit people, with an adult prevalence of 0.31%.