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HIV becomes Increasingly Resistant to a Popular Form of Treatment, Study Says

Update Date: Jan 29, 2016 10:38 AM EST

HIV, the human immunodeficiency virus, is becoming more and more resistant to a popular form of treatment, a new study reported.

The researchers stated that the virus's resistance to the antiretroviral drug tenofovir could become a problem because tenofovir has been very effective at keeping the virus at check.

"Tenofovir is a critical part of our armamentarium against HIV, so it is extremely concerning to see such a high level of resistance to this drug," study author Dr. Ravi Gupta at University College London in England, said in a university news release reported by HealthDay. "It is very potent drug with few side effects, and there aren't any good alternatives that can be deployed using a public health approach. Tenofovir is used not only to treat HIV but also to prevent it in high-risk groups, so we urgently need to do more to combat the problem of emerging resistance."

For this study, the team examined 1,926 HIV patients from 36 countries throughout the world. All of the patients had uncontrolled HIV even though they were on the antiretroviral treatment.

In 60 percent of the patients living in sub-Sahara Africa, the researchers found HIV strains that were resistant to tenofovir. The team estimated that about 15 percent of HIV patients, a rate that they are expecting will continue to increase if nothing is done, will develop resistance to tenofovir during the first year of treatment.

In Europe, that rate of patients who were resistant was only at 20 percent. Overall, the researchers found that patients who were resistant to tenofovir tended to also be resistant to the other drugs that they were taking as a part of their treatment plan. The researchers reasoned that other drugs could be affecting tenofovir's efficacy.

The researchers stressed the importance of taking tenofovir consistently. They reported that risk of developing resistance increases drastically if patients do not take their drugs like they are supposed to. The team noted that people could also be infected with a tenofovior-resistant strain from someone else.

"We certainly cannot dismiss the possibility that resistant strains can spread between people and should not be complacent. We are now conducting further studies to get a more detailed picture of how Tenofovir-resistant viruses develop and spread," Dr. Gupta said.

The study was published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases.

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