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New Strains Of HIV Spreading In India, Scientists Warn

“While India has drastically reduced the spread of HIV over the past decade, new strains of the virus that cause acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) are troubling medical scientists in this country,” Inter Press Service reports (Devraj, 11/29). According to SciDev.Net, “[S]cientists have found new strains of the HIV-1 subtype C — which is responsible for half of the world’s HIV infections — are evolving rapidly in this country.” “The scientists, led by Udaykumar Ranga, professor of molecular biology and genetics at the Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research (JNCASR), Bangalore, have identified five different strains of HIV-1C,” the news service writes, adding, “The proportion of some of these new strains of the HIV-1C went up from two percent in 2000-2003 to 30 percent a decade later, said their study, published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry this month” (Bhatta, 11/30).

“Of the various genetic families, HIV-1 subtype C is responsible for nearly 99 percent of infections in India and has a significant presence in China, South Africa and Brazil as well,” IPS notes. “‘The study is the first of its kind to identify that a major family of HIV-1 is undergoing evolutionary modification,’ Prof. Ranga Udaya Kumar of the molecular biology and genetics unit at JNCASR told IPS,” the news service reports. “Kumar said that although the studies at the Centre do not show the new strains to be ‘more pathogenic,’ there are reasons to believe that they are ‘more infectious,'” IPS writes, adding, “JNCASR and its collaborators are now conducting observational clinical studies to determine if the new HIV strains are more infectious than the existing one” (11/29).