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Being Alive

MEDICAL UPDATE: A Study of Viral Strains


Being Alive 1992 Apr 5: 2

As we have discussed in the past, a major cofactor in the progression to AIDS may be the specific strain or strains of HIV that a person is harboring. Although systematic studies have yet to be done, we do know that there are dozens of strains and that these strains change over time.

Now a Dutch group has published a study in the Journal of Infectious Diseases that looks at specific isolates of HIV. Researchers isolated what they termed syncytia-inducing (SI) strains and compared these to non syncytia-inducing (NSI) strains. We have known for some time that certain types of HIV are able to kill T-cells more quickly by joining a number of T-cells together and forming a giant, multi-nucleated cell. These giant cells are called syncytia and their presence is associated with a more rapid progression to AIDS. The viral cells that have the ability to fuse T-cells are what the Dutch researchers call syncytia-inducing or SI.

In the study, nineteen people were examined early in the course of their HIV infection. Sixteen were found to harbor the NSI strain. Researchers then followed this group over time. Nine of the original nineteen were found to have a rapid progression to serious disease. All were found to have SI isolates.

This study confirms what we have been saying. Viral strains change over time and the strain that a person is harboring can help predict the course of their HIV disease.


Information in this article was accurate in April 5, 1992. The state of the art may have changed since the publication date. This material is designed to support, not replace, the relationship that exists between you and your doctor. Always discuss treatment options with a doctor who specializes in treating HIV.