Researchers are honing in on a new, more aggressive strain of HIV that’s been more rapidly detected in parts of Cuba recently, warning that its disastrous effects can advance the HIV virus to full-blown AIDS in as little as three years.
The average time it takes an HIV+ person to develop AIDS is around 10 years, and while the dangerous new CRF19 strain can be managed with antiretroviral drugs, its rapid conversion time has progressed many new patients to AIDS before they even knew they were HIV+.
Speaking with MailOnline, Belgium’s University of Leuven’s Professor Vandamme explained the internal process in greater detail:
Before the HIV virus can enter human cells, it has to attach itself to them. It does so via anchor points, which are proteins on the cell membrane – the coating of every cell that separates it from the outside environment. In a normal infection, the virus first attaches itself to the anchor point known as CCR5.
But in many patients, after experiencing many healthy years during their latent period, the virus then switches to another anchor point, known as CXCR4.
It is that switch which tends to trigger a faster progression to AIDS.
This new strain of the virus targets the second anchor point, CXCR4, early after infection. As a result the number of healthy years a patient experiences is drastically shortened, and a person will start to suffer the effects of AIDS much faster.
Until recently, the CRF19 strain had been confined to controlled environments in remote Africa. Researchers are still unclear as why the new strain is showing up in Cuba.
“So for patients infected with this aggressive CRF19, it is key to get tested early in order to start treatment early,” Vandamme said. “That is in fact true for all HIV infections, but it is more crucial for this CRF19.”
This has been your healthy reminder to get tested as often as possible!