Highly Virulent HIV Strain Discovered in the Netherlands

Oxford researchers announced that they have discovered a highly virulent VB strain of HIV in the Netherlands that has existed for decades.

Chris Wymant at the University of Oxford. said there were only 109 people who had VB and almost all except 2 are in the Netherlands. 

Wymant said there could be more people infected with VB but are not aware and that researchers should check their databases. 

Those afflicted with the VB variant had 3.5 to 5.5 times higher levels of the virus in their blood and had a more rapidly fading immune system compared to other variants. 

VB was also found to be more transmissive but the cause is still unknown. 

“The [VB] virus is going from person to person without evolving much, which is indicative that that process is happening faster than usual,” said Wymant. 

Wymant however clarified that the strain is treatable and can be detected using the same diagnostic tests used for other HIV variants.

“Our findings emphasize 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,” said co-author Christophe Fraser.

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