As if the worldwide HIV/AIDS epidemic isn’t bad enough, New York health officials reported in February that they had discovered what appears to be a quick progressing, drug-resistant strain of HIV dubbed 3-DCR HIV.
Drug resistant strains of HIV has become increasingly common in people with HIV as the disease adapts to various treatment therapies over time. But in this case the disease was drug resistant in a newly diagnosed individual, and the disease progressed to full-blown AIDS much faster than normal — taking only 2 to 20 months to progress to AIDS rather than the typical average of 10 years. According to news reports, the strain of HIV was resistant to 19 of 20 antiretrovirals used to treat AIDS.
On obvious possibility is that the man contracted this especially virulent form of HIV from unprotected sex with another HIV positive individual who has been undergoing anti-AIDS treatment. Or it could represent a spontaneous mutation of the disease that only this particular patient contracted.
Or, as infectious disease expert Dr. Craig Pringle speculated,
The extensive use of anti-retroviral drugs in the community may have selected this unwelcome triple drug-resistant variant. . . [And a possible] outbreak of HIV not amenable to treatment with currently available drugs is in the offing.
Such a possible outbreak would be devastating, especially if it made its way to the developing nations already plagued by the less virulent forms of HIV.
Drug-resistant HIV strain found. The BBC, February 12, 2005.
Multi-drug-resistant HIV strain raises alarm. Shaoni Bhattacharya, NewScientist.Com, February 14, 2005.