News / Health

    Aggressive HIV Found in Cuba

    Multimedia

    Audio
    Joe DeCapua

    An aggressive form of HIV has been discovered in Cuba. It develops into full-blown AIDS within just three years. Researchers said the progression happens so fast that treatment with antiretroviral drugs may come too late.

    Listen to De Capua report on aggressive HIV in Cuba
    Listen to De Capua report on aggressive HIV in Cubai
    || 0:00:00
    X

    Professor Anne-Mieke Vandamme said Cuban health officials first alerted her about the aggressive form of AIDS. They asked for help in finding out what was happening.

    “We have a collaborative project with Cuba and the Cuban clinicians had noticed that they recently had more and more patients who were progressing much faster to AIDS than they were used to [seeing]. In this case, most of these patients had AIDS even at diagnosis already,” she said.

    Vandamme is a full medical professor at the University of Leuvan in Belgium. She and her team studied more than 70 patients and divided them into various groups. One group was made up of those who developed AIDS quickly.

    “So this group of patients that progressed very fast, they were all recently infected. And we know that because they had been HIV negative tested one or a maximum two years before,” she said.

    She said that on average, without treatment, HIV infection takes 5 to 10 years to become full-blown AIDS. That’s determined by the scarcity of CD-4 immune cells and the number of opportunistic infections a patient has.

    Usually, she said, a fast progression of HIV to AIDS is more a result of the patient’s weak immune system rather than the particular subtype of HIV involved. What’s happening in Cuba is different.

    “Here we had a variant of HIV that we found only in the group that was progressing fast. Not in the other two groups. We focused in on this variant [and] tried to find out what was different. And we saw it was a recombinant of three different subtypes,” she said.

    This new form of HIV is a combination of sub-types A, D and G. It’s been named CRF19.

    Vandamme said, “Another thing was that they had much more virus in their blood than the other patients. So, what we call the viral load was higher in these patients. “

    The patients with the aggressive form of HIV also had higher levels of a molecule called RANTES. It’s released as part of the immune response and raises the alarm about infection.

    Researchers have determined why this form of HIV progresses to AIDS so quickly. Vandamme said for infection to take place, HIV has to attach itself to a cell at – what she calls – anchor points. In medical terms they’re called co-receptors.

    Vandamme said, “There are two types of co-receptors that HIV can use: CCR5 or CXCR4. And in the normal progression of the HIV to AIDS it often happens that the virus switches co-receptor. It almost always starts with using CCR5 and then it switches to CXCR4 after many years. And once it switches the progression to AIDS goes very fast.”

    But instead of taking many years to switch co-receptors, the new form of HIV in Cuba does it less than three years.

    Vandamme says the inclusion of HIV subtype D in the new variant may be key. It contains an enzyme that enables HIV to reproduce in greater numbers – and it takes proteins from other subtypes and uses them in new virus particles.

    The good news is that the aggressive form of HIV responds to most antiretroviral drugs. The bad news is people may not realize they have full-blown AIDS until it’s too late for therapy to do any good.

    Vandamme said the variant has been seen before in Africa, but there were very few such patients and it does not appear to be spreading there. However, it is in wide circulation now in Cuba and now can be easily studied. So, there may be an African link, but further study is needed.

    She said it’s vital for people having unprotected sex with multiple partners to be tested for HIV early and often.

    You May Like

    Post-White House, Obamas to Rent Washington Mansion

    Nine-bedroom home is 3 kilometers from Oval Office, near capital's Embassy Row; rent estimated at around $22,000 a month

    Red Planet? Not so much!

    New research suggest that Mars is in a warm period between cyclical ice ages, and that during Ice Age Maximum over 500,000 years ago, the red planet was decidedly ice, and much whiter to the naked eye.

    Taj Mahal Battles New Threat from Insects

    Swarms of insects are proliferating in the heavily contaminated waters of the Yamuna River, which flows behind the 17th century monument

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora