Study of HIV increase in Pakistan could benefit other research

Published: August 24, 2011

Rates of HIV have increased in Pakistan’s general population, as the virus has spread beyond at-risk groups to women and their children, according to an international team of researchers, including a University of Florida scientist. The researchers raise concern that the transmission across subgroups into Pakistan’s general population may serve as indication that the virus may be spreading into populations within neighboring Afghanistan. The team’s epidemiological findings were published in July in the journal PLoS One.

The technique used to understand the forces that drive the HIV epidemic in Pakistan could also help health care professionals understand and intervene in other deadly disease outbreaks wherever they occur, researchers say.

"Are the strains in Pakistan and Afghanistan of two different epidemic origins, or are they the same? It’s an important question," said paper author Marco Salemi, a UF College of Medicine professor and a member of the UF Emerging Pathogens Institute and the UF Genetics Institute. "Genetic evidence can be used to test how different populations are intersecting. As you can imagine, behavioral data is difficult to get in some countries and this is why molecular tools are important."

Salemi analyzed DNA sequences of blood samples from three HIV-positive groups: intravenous drug users, men who have sex with men, and women who have become infected by their bisexual spouses. By examining the evolutionary makeup of HIV strains, scientists say one of the strongest factors of the disease’s spread is through men who sleep with male intravenous drug users.

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