As Scientists Find Aggressive New HIV Strain, Others Discover Potential Cure

800px-HIV-budding-ColorResearchers at Lund University in Sweden have identified a recombinant strain of HIV—meaning it’s a cross of two previously identified strains—that develops into AIDS in roughly 5 years. Most other strains of HIV take closer to eight years to progress to AIDS.

In an article for the Journal of Infectious Disease, researchers identify the new strain of HIV as A3/02. It is concentrated in West Africa, but there is concern that similar recombinant strains could spread internationally. A3/02 is not necessarily the fastest progressing strain of HIV.

As Professor Phalguni Gupta of the Pittsburgh School of Graduate Health told ABC News, “There are some HIV types here in the United States that take as little as two years to develop into AIDS.”

Still, researchers are monitoring A3/02 closely. They want to see, among other things, if the new strain transmits more easily than other strains.

Meanwhile, there’s more hopeful news coming from the other side of the Atlantic. Researchers at New York’s Yeshiva University announced that they have had success in treating HIV with radioimmunotherapy (RIT), a well-known cancer treatment. In laboratory tests, researchers tested RIT on blood samples from people who receive highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART).

HAART is used to treat nearly 9 million HIV+ people worldwide. It prevents the virus from multiplying in the bloodstream, but it does not kill the infected cells. The research out of Yeshiva indicates that RIT, when used in conjunction with HAART, could successfully target infected immune cells without harming healthy cells in the process. In other words, it could do more than just slow the virus; it could eradicate it completely.

Project leader Dr. Ekaterina Dadachova explained in a press release, “We found that radioimmunotherapy could kill HIV-infected cells both in blood samples that received antiretroviral treatment and within the central nervous system, demonstrating RIT offers real potential for being developed into an HIV cure.”