Researchers of the Swiss HIV Cohort Study have identified a simple method to establish when a patient contracted the virus causing . The time of infection can be of importance for the treatment of the illness and it contributes to the understanding of the course of the epidemic.
Medical doctors rarely know when a patient contracted HIV. The exact point in time can only be established in the first eight weeks after infection – during the so called acute phase. If the HIV test is taken later, it remains unclear if the infection took place three months or ten years ago. But this is about to change as researchers supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) have discovered a simple method to determine the approximate time of infection.Relevant to understanding the spread of the illness
In collaboration with colleagues from the ETH Zurich, researchers of the Swiss HIV Cohort Study analysed data that is obtained in routine resistance tests. These tests examine the genetics of the virus to establish its resistance to drugs. If a patient carries a variety of HIV strains, the test reveals ambiguous results with regard to certain points in the sequences of the virus’ genetic code.By-product of resistance testing
The study, that has now been published in the journal "Clinical Infectious Diseases", was able to show that the proportion of ambiguous sequences is indeed increasing regularly during the first eight years after infection, afterwards the increase slows down. At the moment the new method is still too imprecise to establish the exact time of infection but the researchers were able to define a threshold level that indicates with 99 percent certainty if an infection happened more than a year ago.
(*) Roger D. Kouyos, Viktor von Wyl, Sabine Yerly, Jürg Böni, Philip Rieder, Beda Joos, Patrick Taffé , Cyril Shah, Philippe Bürgisser, Thomas Klimkait, Rainer Weber, Bernard Hirschel, Matthias Cavassini, Andri Rauch, Manuel Battegay, Pietro L. Vernazza, Enos Bernasconi, Bruno Ledergerber, Sebastian Bonhoeffer, Huldrych F. Günthard and the Swiss HIV Cohort Study (2011). Ambiguous Nucleotide Calls From Population-based Sequencing of HIV-1 are a Marker for Viral Diversity and the Age of Infection. Clinical Infectious Diseases online. doi: 10.1093/cid/ciq164 (als PDF beim SNF erhältlich; E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org)Swiss HIV Cohort Study
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