Volume 93, Issue 66

Thursday, January 27, 2000


Heaton drops from USC prez race

Default rate shows decline

Failed talks spart protest at U of T

Study reveals new HIV concerns

MP has his Day on campus

Braun to introduce "beef boards"

Brebner takes logical approach



Caught on campus

Study reveals new HIV concerns

By Leena Kamat
Gazette Staff

The transmission of mutated HIV strains, which have proven to be immune to normal treatment, has recently become the subject of concern.

A study released Monday by researchers at McGill University revealed one in five newly infected HIV patients have received resistant HIV strains, said Bonnie Spira, manager of HIV laboratories at the McGill University AIDS centre.

The study involved 81 people infected by the virus since July 1997, who had not received any form of drug therapy, Spira said.

She explained resistant viruses are those which are not affected by the drugs used today to treat AIDS, giving them a chance to grow.

The study was unique as it showed the resistant HIV virus can not only be transmitted through sexual intercourse, as previous studies have shown, but also through intravenous drug use, said Rafik-Pierre Sekaly, director of laboratories of immunology at the Institut de Recherches Clinique de Montréal, who worked on the study with Spira.

Approximately 20 per cent of the patients were infected with some form of resistant strain, Sekaly said. He explained most of these patients were resistant to one type of drug but two people were resistant to three or more drugs.

"This type of multiple resistance usually occurs after a long time [after the initial infection]," Sekaly said, adding the resistant virus limited the options for these newly diagnosed patients.

"It is remarkable," said C. Yong Kang, a professor of virology at Western, of the virus' resistance to three drugs.

"It's a very, very high rate of mutation," Kang said. He explained his concern was controlling HIV which is made more difficult through this fast replication and transmission.

Spira explained the main reason for the increased resistance is that patients are not following their drug therapies. Factors such as dosage and the frequency can have an effect on the virus, she said.

He added the cost for drug therapy, which included a combination of three drugs, was $15,000 annually. It costs $500 to run a screening test where resistance to any type of drug is detected. Patients could be wasting money on drugs if they are resistant to them, as the tests are not routinely conducted, Spira added.

"What we're trying to push is availability of genotype testing," Sekaly said, adding they are also trying to convince the government to subsidize these tests.

Eric Morin, communications executive with Health Canada, said he could not comment about possible funding for the tests since all applications are kept secret.

"Finding out more information about drug resistance is exciting," said Sharon Baxter, executive director of the Canadian AIDS Society. "But it's frightening that the virus is mutating the way it is."

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