Study explains slow mixing of HIV variants

Organisation: Position: Deadline Date: Location:

Most HIV epidemics are still dominated by the first strain that entered a particular population. New research offers an explanation of why the global mixing of HIV variants is so slow.

Science Daily reports that researchers from Eötvös Loránd University; Bence Ferdinandy, Dr Viktor Müller, and colleagues, analysed simulated epidemics to understand how distinct HIV virus strains spreading in the same population compete and interfere with each other.

The authors show that once a strain of HIV has established a stable epidemic, it can slow down the invasion of secondary strains into the population. The primary factor is because individuals infected with the first HIV strain survive for a relatively long time and are resilient to ‘super-infection’ from a second strain. The individuals effectively impose ‘roadblocks’ for the spread of invader strains in the network of sexual contacts.

The results imply that the HIV variants that dominate the global epidemic today may not be the most transmissible strains: they may simply have been the ‘luckiest’, picked up by chance to ride the first wave of expansion from the epicentre of the pandemic in Central Africa.

More transmissible strains are likely to exist or be created by mutation and recombination, and these strains may eventually outgrow the current variants, a warning that the pandemic is not ‘static’: it may grow further on a longer time scale. In contrast, eliminating the epidemic could increase the risk of emergent HIV lineages from novel cross-species transmissions.

Full Science Daily report
PLOS Computational Biology abstract


Receive Medical Brief's free weekly e-newsletter



Related Posts

Thank you for subscribing to MedicalBrief


MedicalBrief is Africa’s premier medical news and research weekly newsletter. MedicalBrief is published every Thursday and delivered free of charge by email to over 33 000 health professionals.

Please consider completing the form below. The information you supply is optional and will only be used to compile a demographic profile of our subscribers. Your personal details will never be shared with a third party.


Thank you for taking the time to complete the form.