Despite the successes of drug treatments for HIV/AIDS during the last decade, research suggests that a new battle against this deadly disease has opened up. Investigators from the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) in collaboration with Centre Hospitalier de l'Université de Montréal (CHUM) and private clinics show, in today's issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, that increasing proportions of recently infected HIV patients harbour a drug resistant virus.
"These findings are cause for concern for the medical community and HIV/AIDS patients, " says Dr. Jean-Pierre Routy, MUHC clinician and co-investigator of the study. "Anti-viral drug resistance leads to treatment failure and a faster progression of the disease. Our results show that this drug resistant virus is being increasingly transmitted within the North American population. Transmission of resistant viruses can severely limit therapeutical options for newly infected patients."
Dr. Routy and colleagues studied 377 patients with newly acquired HIV infection from 10 North American Cities. The largest proportion of patients came from Montreal. This study showed that the rate of drug resistant virus increased from 3.4 percent to 12.4 percent in the last 5 years. It demonstrated that after initiation of antiviral therapy more time was required to suppress resistant virus in HIV-infected patients. In short, treatment was less effective against resistant viruses.
"Testing for drug resistance should be incorporated into the management of newly infected individuals who start treatment," concludes Routy. "Furthermore, it is evident that there is a need for novel anti-HIV drugs."
More than 40 million people are living with HIV/AIDS worldwide. In recent years, the number of women and children infected with HIV has increased dramatically.