In a study led by the University of Oxford published this year, a new HIV variant has been found with higher virulence and more detrimental health effects. According to Unaids.org, in 2020, 1.5 million people globally were newly infected with HIV, 37.7 million were living with HIV and 680,000 people died of AIDS-related illnesses.
This collaborative global study, with important contributions from the Dutch HIV Monitoring Foundation and led by researchers at the Big Data Institute, Oxford University, discovered the HIV new variant which has been named the “VB variant” (meaning virulent subtype B).
109 people are known to be infected with VB. Two of those live in the Netherlands, however, more could be infected. Chris Wymant, Senior Researcher in Statistical Genetics and Pathogen Dynamics at the Big Data Institute advises that, “researchers who sequence HIV should check their databases for more cases of the variant”.
Researchers are keen to point out that the VB variant causes a swifter decline in immune system strength so people should be diagnosed early and begin treatment quickly. Professor Caroline Sabin at University College London said, “the findings provide further support for frequent testing for those at risk and rapid treatment initiation when diagnosed”.
Professor and senior author Christophe Fraser, from Oxford University and the Nuffield Department of Medicine, commented, “our findings emphasise the importance of World Health Organization guidance that individuals at risk of acquiring HIV have access to regular testing to allow early diagnosis, followed by immediate treatment. This limits the amount of time HIV can damage an individual´s immune system and jeopardise their health. It also ensures that HIV is suppressed as quickly as possible, which prevents transmission to other individuals”.
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 University of Oxford – ox.ac.uk: New highly virulent and damaging HIV variant discovered in the Netherlands
 Newscientist.com: ‘VB’ is a new and more infectious variant of HIV but it is treatable
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