Bad AIDS News - Study
Finds Different HIV
Strains In Blood And Semen
CHARLOTTE, North Carolina (AP) -- A study has found that the AIDS virus can mutate into separate strains in a patient's semen and blood, suggesting the infection may be craftier and harder to treat than previously thought.
The findings challenge the widely held belief that an individual can harbor only one strain of the AIDS virus.
The researchers urged the development of drugs that attack blood- and semen-based viruses separately.
The research involved 11 HIV-infected men in North Carolina and Switzerland. Some of those who were treated prior to the study had AIDS strains that had mutated and developed resistance to antiviral drugs.
In most of the volunteers with these resistant viruses, their sperm and blood were found to contain different viral strains.
Protease inhibitors, a powerful class of AIDS drugs, did not penetrate the male genitals, or did so only with great difficulty. In one patient, resistance to the drug AZT was encountered in the sperm virus, but only later in the blood virus.
'Potential reservoirs of virus ... can persist'
The researchers concluded that the male genitals and the bloodstream act as separate "compartments," which have to be dealt with independently when giving AIDS drugs.
"Our observations may have substantial consequences for newly infected individuals and for public health," wrote the researchers, Dr. Pietro Vernazza of St. Gall Cantonal Hospital in Switzerland and Dr. Joseph J. Eron of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
The findings were releassed Wednesday and are to be published in the October 22 issue of the journal AIDS.
Dr. Oren Cohen of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said the research mostly confirms previous studies that determined that the disease can be compartmentalized in the body.
"It also shows there are potential reservoirs of virus that can persist even when they are at undetectable levels," he said. "It's a red flag that we can't become too complacent."
But Cohen expressed concerns about the small number of people studied.