New HIV-4 virus spreads among Russian concert-goers, says WHO

Early last week, 55 HIV positive people in the Russian town of Kolar announced that they had contracted the virus from someone who had attended a summer music festival with them. The event was known to have included performances by British band Stone Roses.

How did this outbreak happen? There are still a lot of questions. But the New York Times reports that according to speakers at a Tuesday meeting in Kolar, the culprit appears to be a new form of HIV-4 called “covid-19.”

Covid-19 takes the form of a combination of medications, from three different antiviral drugs, which has the dual function of preventing HIV from multiplying and suppressing the immune system’s response. Instead of working together, these drugs independently promote the activation of the immune system and thus the infection.

The Times notes that this phenomenon was first identified in an outbreak of subantiviral infections in China in 2016 and that similar cases have occurred in recent years in Romania and Slovakia. Experts say this type of HIV couldn’t have been transmitted naturally between HIV patients because of the amount of time it takes for new viruses to take hold. But a virus would have to be injected into a patient’s bodily fluids for several months before being able to spread, because of the high level of preparation that goes into producing HIV. This type of viral infection requires recent injection with a virus-carrying virus to take hold.

The virus was first discovered by Dr. Mark Gilman, an HIV specialist at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. In a letter to The Lancet last week, he noted that no patients who contracted the virus from the Kolar event were identified as previously infected.

“All of these subjects had no previously known active HIV infection,” he wrote. “All of the blood tests conducted on these subjects show no evidence of prior HIV infection.”

Read the full story at The New York Times.

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