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HIV Subtype Better Predictor of Early Death from AIDS than Viral Load Test

February 6th 2006

HIV Subtype Better Predictor of Early Death from AIDS than Viral Load Test

AIDS in Africa

Scientists say that HIV subtype is more important than determining the “viral load” as a predictor of early death. Viral load has been the standard method of determining the progress of the disease, but now scientists have begun to investigate HIV subtypes. 

The scientists divided the HIV virus into three group types where D made a person with HIV likely to die more rapidly compared with a person in the A subtype group.  Viral load had little to do with mortality in comparison. According to the John Hopkins study, “Ten percent of those infected with subtype D died within three years, while none with subtype A died. However, viral load ranged from 20,000 particles per cubic milliliter of blood to 100,000 particles per cubic milliliter of blood in those with both subtypes, and was not found to be an accurate predictor of rapid death within the same timeframe.”


Participants in the study came from the Rakai cohort.  More than 300 newly infected men and women in Uganda participated in the study which took place between 1995 and 2001. Of this group, 53 were infected with subtype A and 203 were infected with subtype D.  70 were infected with a recombinant version of the two types. 

There was a difference in survival periods between the three groups.  Those in group A survived on average 8.8 years.  Those in group D had an average survival period of 6.9 years while those in the AD group survived an average of 5.8 years. 

The researchers believe that subtype D is more virulent because it binds to key receptors on immune cells.  Subtype A viruses could only bind to one type of receptor, the CCR5.  “But 25 percent of subtype D virus bound to both CCR5 and another receptor, CXCR4. Indeed, two-thirds of those infected with CXCR4-binding virus died within three years,” according to the report.    


Lead researcher Oliver Laeyendecker, M.S., M.B.A., a senior research associate at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and senior research assistant at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, "Knowing a person's HIV subtype is important for the management of the infection because the disease can progress more rapidly in those infected with subtype D and recombinant virus incorporating subtype D than in those with other subtypes."

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By Dan Wilson
Best Syndication Staff Writer

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Keywords and misspellings:  sub-types sub types

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