Sexual Health news - Sexually Transmitted Diseases

Rate of initial HIV infection found similar to that of HIV superinfection

An article published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases suggests that the rate of HIV superinfection is comparable to the initial HIV infection. HIV superinfection occurs when an HIV-positive individual is infected with more than one strain of the virus. In previous studies, this has been mostly observed in high-risk populations. It results in clinical effects that include accelerated progression of the disease and an increase in the risk of HIV-drug resistance even among individual who may have been previously managing their disease.

Researchers used an ultra-deep sequencing technique to examine blood samples of 149 HIV-infected participants of the Rakai Community Cohort Study - consisting of both those considered high-risk and those who were not - upon initial diagnosis and then again one year later. Out of all participants, seven cases of superinfection were recorded. This concludes a rate of 1.44 per 100 people annually. This observation is comparable to the rate of initial HIV infections seen within the same population, which is 1.15 per 100, leaving little statistical significance between the two rates.

Rate causes doubts over HIV vaccine

Since the study found that superinfection is common and occurs among HIV subtypes, it suggests that the response of the immune system activated by the initial infection offers little protection. This poses a significant issue with vaccine development - replicating the natural anti-HIV immune response may not be effective against multiple strains.

"This study indicates that HIV superinfection may be more common than was previously thought," said Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. "These findings have implications for public health strategies to prevent new infections and efforts to develop an HIV vaccine."