HIV less deadly – Video: HIV is evolving to become less deadly, say scientists

Updated: December 2, 2014
HIV less deadly - Video: HIV is evolving to become less deadly, say scientists

HIV is evolving to become less deadly, The remarkable finding, which is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is based on a study of more than 2,000 women in Botswana and South Africa.

Research by a team at the University of Oxford showed that the virus is being “watered down” as it evolves in accordance to the human immune system, reports said on Monday.

The research shows the virus is taking longer to cause AIDS in the victims, around 2.5 years later than the time it took at the start of the epidemic.

The new trend in the virus’s evolution could result in containing the spread of the disease.

“We are observing evolution happening in front of us and it is surprising how quickly the process is happening,” said Professor Philip Goulder, from the Oxford University team. “The virus is slowing down in its ability to cause disease and that will help contribute to elimination.”

The team compared HIV samples from 842 pregnant women and in South Africa and Botswana. In Botswana, the AIDS epidemic started in the mid-1980s while in South Africa it started in the mid-90s, meaning HIV in Botswana has had about a decade longer evolutionary head start.

Tests on the Botswana strains showed that they reproduce at a slower rate than those from South Africa, which means the virus takes longer to destroy people’s immune systems and cause AIDS.

“The widespread use of antiretroviral therapy may also have a similar effect and together, these effects may contribute to the ultimate control of the HIV epidemic,” added Goulder.

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