New HIV Strain Discovered in Woman From Cameroon

Randolph E. Schmid, AP, August 2, 2009

A new strain of the virus that causes AIDS has been discovered in a woman from the African nation of Cameroon. It differs from the three known strains of human immunodeficiency virus and appears to be closely related to a form of simian virus recently discovered in wild gorillas, researchers report in Monday’s edition of the journal Nature Medicine.

The finding “highlights the continuing need to watch closely for the emergence for new HIV variants, particularly in western central Africa,” said the researchers, led by Jean-Christophe Plantier of the University of Rouen, France.

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The most likely explanation for the new find is gorilla-to-human transmission, Plantier’s team said. But they added they cannot rule out the possibility that the new strain started in chimpanzees and moved into gorillas and then humans, or moved directly from chimpanzees to both gorillas and humans.

The 62-year-old patient tested positive for HIV in 2004, shortly after moving to Paris from Cameroon, according to the researchers. She had lived near Yaounde, the capital of Cameroon, but said she had no contact with apes or bush meat, a name often given to meat from wild animals in tropical countries.

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A separate paper, also in Nature Medicine, reports that people with genital herpes remain at increased risk of HIV infection even after the herpes sores have healed and the skin appears normal.

Researchers led by Drs. Lawrence Corey and Jia Zhu of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center found that long after the areas where the herpes sores existed seem to be clear, they still have immune-cell activity that can encourage HIV infection.

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That study was funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Tietze Foundation.

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