Doctors Warn Of
'Superinfection' From AIDS Virus

BOSTON (Reuters) - Doctors said Wednesday they have documented a case of "superinfection" with the AIDS virus, in which the person became infected with a second strain of the virus while still fighting an initial infection.
The discovery, described in Thursday's New England Journal of Medicine, suggested that finding a vaccine against the deadly immunity disease may be more difficult than some have thought.
It also means that people with HIV, the AIDS virus, should avoid getting reinfected, otherwise they risk being exposed to a second strain that will make the disease even harder to treat, doctors said.
"Superinfection may precipitate more rapid progression of the disease," said Drs. Philip Goulder and Bruce Walker of Massachusetts General Hospital, in an editorial in the Journal.
"Infected and noninfected persons should therefore exercise the same degree of vigilance to prevent HIV-1 exposure," they said.
Because sexual activity seems to be increasing among people infected with HIV, they added, "this is a public health message that needs to be broadcast loud and clear."
Until now doctors had hoped that infection with one strain of HIV would protect the body from other strains, which would make it easier to develop a vaccine. More than a dozen strains of the virus have been detected around the world.
But a team led by Stephanie Jost of the University of Geneva uncovered the case of a 38-year-old man who developed a second HIV infection on top of the first.
That discovery, said Goulder and Walker, provided "convincing evidence that HIV-1 superinfection can occur long after an initial infection is established."
Because strains of HIV can vary significantly, they said, finding a vaccine against the various forms of the virus "is likely to be a formidable task."
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