Super-mutant HIV strain which could cause people to develop AIDS more quickly discovered
A new super-strain of HIV which acts twice as fast to damage the immune system than current versions of the virus has been detected in the Netherlands
A new HIV strain, called the VB variant, has infected at least 109 people according to a study by Oxford University's Big Data Institute and the Dutch HIV Monitoring Foundation.
The new mutant variant makes people ill at a faster rate than current versions of the virus according to the study published in the Science journal.
The new strain could cause people to develop AIDS at a faster rate than previous variants as it damages the immune system faster.
The study revealed the the VB variant is more transmissible as it has a viral load between 3.5 and 5.5 times higher than the current strain.
The researchers have emphasised the importance of early detection of the VB variant due to it's rapidity in attacking the immune system.
However, they also highlighted that treatment acts similarly on the new strain as it does to previous variants and so patients will see a similar survival rate to those infected with other HIV strains.
Senior researcher and lead author of the study, Dr Chris Wymant, said: "Before this study, the genetics of the HIV virus were known to be relevant for virulence, implying that the evolution of a new variant could change its impact on health."
"Discovery of the VB variant demonstrated this, providing a rare example of the risk posed by viral virulence evolution."
Men in Britain who have sex with other men are advised to get tested for HIV and other STIs every three months.