Some 11.1 per cent of HIV-positive people in southern Africa carry a mutation that could cause them to become resistant to recommended AIDS-prevention drugs, known as non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NNRTI), which control the virus’ replication, a UK study found today.
Those who have previously taken drugs that block viruses from reproducing after entering cells are more likely to carry such mutations, which in some regions is up to 30 per cent of the population, the research adds.
Without action, such resistance could result in 890,000 more AIDS deaths and 450,000 more HIV infections in Sub-Saharan Africa alone before 2030, according to the researchers.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends countries switch to more reliable first-line AIDS treatments to combat drug resistance. Up to 11 per cent of HIV sufferers in poor countries do not respond to AIDS-prevention drugs
EUROPE’S HIV EPIDEMIC IS GROWING AT AN ‘ALARMING PACE’, WHO REPORT FINDS
Europe’s HIV epidemic is growing at an ‘alarming pace’ as infections reached their highest level in 2016 since records began, health officials revealed earlier this month.
Last year, around 160,000 people contracted HIV, which causes AIDS, in 53 European countries, according to a report by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).
Over the past decade, the rate of newly-diagnosed HIV infections in Europe has risen by 52 per cent from 12 in every 100,000 people in 2007 to 18.2 for every 100,000 in 2016, the report adds.
According to the report, this increase was ‘mainly driven by the continuing upward trend in the East’, which accounts for around 80 per cent of Europe’s cases.
Zsuzsanna Jakab, European regional director of the WHO, said: ‘This is the highest number of cases recorded in one year. If this trend persists, we will not be able to achieve the target of ending the HIV epidemic by 2030.’
Past findings suggest HIV rates are rising in eastern Europe, particularly in those over 50 who inject illegal drugs, due to a lack of awareness campaigns on the infection’s risks or how to prevent transmission.
Some 11.1% carry a mutation for AIDS-drug resistance in southern Africa
Researchers from University College London (UCL) and the WHO analysed 56,044 adults from 63 low- to middle-income countries across five continents who were beginning their initial therapy for HIV between 1996 and 2016.
Results reveal drug resistance is highest in southern Africa where 11.1 per cent of patients have a mutation for NNRTI resistance.
The second most drug-resistant population is in eastern Africa where 10.1 per cent of HIV-infected people starting therapy carry such mutations, followed by 9.4 per cent in Central America, and 7.2 per cent in western and central Africa.
Although the study did not include high-income countries, past research reveals such regions’ HIV drug-resistance rates are plateauing or declining.
Previous drug exposure linked to resistance risk
People who claim to have previously used antiretroviral drugs, which block viruses from reproducing after entering cells, are more likely to be drug resistant and have unsuccessful treatment.
In some regions, up to 30 per cent of people have been exposed to such drugs.
Lead author, Professor Ravindra Gupta from UCL, said: ‘Treatments for HIV have improved immensely in recent years and close to 21 million people worldwide are now being treated with antiretroviral therapy.
‘Yet to end the AIDS epidemic as a public-health threat, minimising drug resistance will be one part of the response.
‘Many people develop drug resistance after being treated by antiretroviral drugs if they stop taking their medication; often due to personal reasons, difficulty accessing treatment providers, or drug supply issues that are common in low income regions.
‘When these individuals restart treatment at a later date, they are less likely to respond to therapy and may pass on the drug-resistant strains to other people.’
Those who have previously taken some antiviral drugs are more likely to carry such mutations
Resistance could cause hundreds of thousands of deaths
Without action, such resistance could result in 890,000 more AIDS-related deaths and 450,000 more HIV infections in Sub-Saharan Africa alone before 2030.
Study author Dr Silvia Bertagnolio from the WHO, said: ‘If we are to combat HIV drug resistance, we must ensure countries can do a good job in monitoring and responding to it when needed.
‘New WHO guidelines and a global action plan aim to help make this happen.’
The guidelines recommend countries switch to more robust first-line AIDS treatment when drug-resistance levels reach 10 per cent.
The five-year Global Action Plan calls on all countries to join efforts to prevent, monitor and respond to HIV drug resistance and to protect the ongoing progress towards the Sustainable Development Goal of ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030.
The findings were published in the journal The Lancet Infectious Diseases.