Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) superinfection may be as common as initial HIV infection and is not limited to high risk-populations, according to a new study led by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). In the first large-scale study of HIV superinfection in a general heterosexual population, researchers examined the rate of superinfection among a community of sub-Saharan adults. HIV superinfection occurs when an HIV-infected individual acquires a new viral strain that is phylogenetically different from all other detectable viral strains. Superinfection can have detrimental clinical effects as well as accelerated disease progression, and increased HIV drug resistance even among individuals who were previously controlling their HIV infection. The results are featured online in of the Journal of Infectious Diseases.
"We found it remarkable that the rates of superinfection and underlying new HIV infections were equivalent. This raises many interesting questions about the natural immune response and its inability to generate resistance to HIV reinfection," said Thomas Quinn, MD, MS, co-author of the study, an NIAID senior investigator, a professor with the Bloomberg School's Department of International Health and director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Global Health.
"For years there has been great debate regarding the rate of HIV superinfection among populations, and previous studies have focused on individuals exposed to the virus through high-risk sexual activity or intravenous drug use," said Andrew Redd, PhD, lead author of the study and a postdoctoral fellow at the Laboratory of Immunoregulation at NIAID. "We were looking to determine the rate of HIV superinfection among a broader, general population using a novel technique sensitive enough to detect even the lowest levels of circulating HIV strains."
|Contact: Natalie Wood-Wright|
Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health