Main | Thursday, January 14, 2010

Study Warns Of Coming New Strains Of Drug-Resistant HIV

Scientists warn that new drug-resistant strains of HIV may develop this decade, causing "mini-epidemics" of their own.
New research based on a novel mathematical model predicts that a wave of drug-resistant HIV strains will emerge in San Francisco within the next five years. These strains could prove disastrous by hindering control of the HIV pandemic. The model showed that surprisingly many of the drug-resistant HIV strains that have evolved over the past last 10 years in San Francisco are much more transmissible than had been previously thought. The researchers predict these strains are likely to cause a new wave of drug resistance within the next five years.
The San Francisco Health Department says not to panic.
San Francisco public health officials emphasized that drug-resistant HIV is not a health crisis and said that while the model is interesting, they don't expect it to change how doctors treat people with HIV infections. But the study's authors and public health officers agree that it's critical that new drug therapies continue to be developed as resistance to older treatments grows, and that funding be made available to test for resistance early on so that patients get appropriate care.
Ironically, a Canadian study shows that the number of patients currently experiencing drug resistance has nose-dived.
The study, published in the Jan. 1 edition of Clinical Infections Diseases, reports that from 1996-2008 there has been a 12-fold decrease in drug resistance. “The main thing that we saw is that the HAART therapies (highly active antiretroviral therapy) are becoming more successful every year in keeping the level of virus in patients down below the level we can even detect. “That prevents the virus from replicating, from making copies of itself and the disease doesn’t progress,” Harrigan said. It also means less drug-resistant HIV is being passed on “from patient A to patient B.” The 10-year-long study involved 5,500 patients.

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