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Scientists Discover Highly Virulent Variant’ of HIV in the Netherlands

Researchers have discovered a highly Virulent and more rapidly progressing strain of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS — but insists it is “no cause for alarm” because of modern treatments against the illness. The analysis showed that patients infected with the so-called “VB variant” had 3.5 to 5.5 times higher levels of the virus in their blood than those infected with other variants, as well as a more rapidly fading immune system.

The study, published Thursday in the journal Science, also found that after starting treatment, people with the new variant had similar immune system recovery and survival to those with other HIV variants. There’s no cause for alarm with this new viral variant lurking in the Netherlands for decades.

The finding also supports the theory that viruses can evolve to become more Virulent, a widely hypothesized theory for which other examples have been found — including the Delta variant of COVID-19. The discovery of the VB variant should “be a warning that we should never be overconfident about saying viruses will just evolve to become milder.

The team first identified the variant in 17 HIV-positive people by analyzing a comprehensive data set from the BEEHIVE project, a data collection and analysis initiative in Europe and Uganda. Because 15 of the 17 were from the Netherlands, they also investigated data from 6,700 HIV-positive Dutch people, identifying 92 others. The earliest appearance of the variant was detected in someone diagnosed in 1992 who had an earlier version of the variant, and the most recent was from 2014.

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