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New HIV variant detected


Ntsoaki Motaung

A new deadly HIV virulent variant has been detected in Netherlands, although the Ministry of Health assures the public that the virus poses no threat in Lesotho.

The whistle was blown by the ministry through a press statement inked by the Director General of Health Services Dr Nyane Letsie who in her statement assured the public that the new highly contagious variant identified in the Dutch country and that it poses little to no threat in Lesotho as the anti-retroviral therapy-ART (HIV treatment) is highly effective to combat the variant.

According to the Ministry, a group of scientists converged on February 4, 2022 and reported that they identified 109 individuals in the Netherlands, who have a highly virulent variant of the HIV-1 virus.

“The anti-retroviral therapy-ART (HIV treatment) provided and available to all people living with HIV in Lesotho is highly effective at managing the HIV variants present in Lesotho,” she said.

She further continued to encourage all people who do not know their HIV status to test for HIV.

“All individuals whose HIV status is positive are highly recommended to initiate and adhere well to lifelong HIV treatment so as to allow them to live long, healthy, normal and productive lives. All individuals whose HIV status is negative should strive to maintain this status by accessing HIV preventions services,” she said.

An online health page Wymant, details that a cluster of more than 100 individuals infected with the subtype showed exceptionally high viral loads, rapid CD4 T cell decline with increased infectivity. While the findings show that the HIV lineage likely arose de novo around the turn of the millennium, extensive changes in its genome make it hard to discern the mechanisms that underlie its elevated virulence.

“By the time these individuals were diagnosed, they were vulnerable to developing AIDS within 2 to 3 years,” The page reads.

The analysis further states that the VB variant showed significant changes across the genome affecting almost 300 amino acids, which make understanding why this particular variant is so virulent difficult.”

According to the new strain, called the VB variant, damages the immune system, weakening people’s ability to fight everyday infections and diseases much faster than the previous HIV strains.

“It also means that people who contract the new variant may develop AIDS faster,” the page reads.

Researchers also found that VB has a viral load (the amount of virus detected in blood) 3.5 to 5.5 times higher than the current strain, indicating that it could also be more infectious.

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