Disturbing News of AIDS 'Superinfection'
5 September 2002
-- Doctors once assumed that after initial HIV exposure and
infection, the body's immunity response would prevent a second
reinfection should the patient be exposed to another strain of
the deadly virus. Swiss researchers have proven this
to a report published in this week's New England Journal of
Medicine, researchers in Geneva have documented a case in
which a 38-year-old man acquired a second strain of H.I.V.
through unprotected sex more than two years after he was first
infected in 1998.
study not only complicates the search for an AIDS vaccine, it
makes unprotected sex between two HIV-infected partners even
more problematic than previously believed. Exposure to another
strain after initial infection can overwhelm treatment
regimens and make surviving the disease much more difficult.
may precipitate more rapid progression of the disease,"
said Doctors Philip Goulder and Bruce Walker of Massachusetts
General Hospital, in an editorial in the Journal.
"Infected and noninfected persons should therefore
exercise the same degree of vigilance to prevent HIV-1
exposure," they said.
sexual activity seems to be increasing among people infected
with HIV, they added, "this is a public health message
that needs to be broadcast loud and clear."
researcher, Dr. Bernard Hirschel of the University of Geneva,
said the authors had been able to document the case because
the patient was enrolled in an AIDS drug study to test early
treatment of the virus.
discovery, said Goulder and Walker, provided "convincing
evidence that HIV-1 superinfection can occur long after an
initial infection is established."
strains of HIV can vary significantly, they said, finding a
vaccine against the various forms of the virus "is likely
to be a formidable task." Health experts say more than a
dozen strains of the virus have been detected around the