HIV not as infectious soon after transmission as thought (Update)

Published: March 17, 2015

Medical Xpress
Original Article:

People who recently have been infected with HIV may not be as highly infectious as previously believed, a finding that could improve global efforts to prevent HIV transmission and save lives. In particular, the finding bolsters the strategy of treating patients with antiretroviral drugs before the onset of AIDS to prevent transmission.

Mathematical epidemiologists Steve Bellan, a postdoctoral researcher at The University of Texas at Austin, and Lauren Ancel Meyers, a biology professor at the university, authored the paper with researchers from McMaster University and Yale University. The analysis was published today in the open access online journal PLOS Medicine.

A few weeks after people are infected with HIV, they enter a months-long acute phase of infection when levels of virus in the bloodstream spike. If left untreated, this is followed by a decade-long chronic phase of infection that precedes AIDS. The acute phase has been previously associated with elevated risk for spreading HIV, even higher than expected from the viral spike. Researchers have argued that a large portion—or even the majority—of HIV transmission may arise from individuals who have just been infected, but the new analysis finds that previous estimates of infectivity during this acute phase are likely to be too high. In fact, today’s report suggests one of the most commonly cited estimates could be as much as 20 times too high.

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