HIV drug resistance creeps higher: WHO

July 18, 2012 by Kerry Sheridan

Drug resistance to HIV medicines has been creeping higher in parts of Africa and Asia but is not steep enough to cause alarm, said a survey released by the World Health Organization on Wednesday.

In low- and middle-income countries, drug resistance stood at 6.8 percent in 2010, the WHO said in its first-ever report on the matter released ahead of the International Conference in the US capital July 22-27.

"That is a level that we sort of expected. It is not dramatic but we clearly need to look very carefully on how this would evolve further," WHO AIDS chief Gottfried Hirnschall said in an interview.

Drug resistance can occur when the mutates naturally, when treatment is interrupted or patients take the medications incorrectly.

The 6.8 percent figure relates to the level of transmitted from one person to another, meaning those people were found to be resistant to the first-line of therapy they tried.

The other main type of resistance is one that develops in a patient who takes medications irregularly.

Since many more people in the are now receiving , experts have been closely monitoring to see whether a surge in drug resistance would accompany the increased coverage.

Some eight million people in low- and middle-income countries were being treated with antiretrovirals last year, up 20 percent from 2010 according to a separate report by UNAIDS released Wednesday.

High-income countries, many of which began widescale treatment for years earlier and used single or dual therapies that can also encourage resistance, face higher rates of resistance, from eight to 14 percent, said the study.

However, those rates have largely leveled off or decreased over time, Hirnschall noted.

"What we have also seen in these countries is it has stabilized or plateaued while we are still seeing a slight increase in low- and middle-income countries," he told AFP.

In 12 of the low- and middle-income countries included in the study, health care facilities lost contact with up to 38 percent of people who began treatment.

When people interrupt or stop their treatment altogether, "this not only means that they are themselves more likely to become sick, it also increases the likelihood that drug resistance will emerge and the resistant virus could be transmitted to others," the report said.

The WHO called for every clinic providing such treatment to monitor for early warning indicators that could signal encroaching resistance, including poor adherence to treatment, types of medicines used and supply breaks.

Also, any rise in the amount of virus detected in the patient's blood should serve as a signal that the treatment is failing, the WHO said.

For now, there is no need to change to current guidelines for administering antiretroviral drugs due to the slight rise in resistance, it added.

"Simpler regimens using fixed-dose combinations have made it much easier for people to adhere to antiretroviral treatment, limiting the spread of drug resistance in recent years. This is good news for public health," Hirnschall said.

Explore further: HIV drugs reach 8 million in needy countries

Related Stories

HIV drugs reach 8 million in needy countries

July 18, 2012
More than eight million people -- a record number in low- and middle-income countries -- are now taking antiretroviral drugs to treat HIV, according to data released Wednesday by UNAIDS.

Study finds early signs of malaria drug resistance in Africa

April 27, 2012
Africa's deadliest malaria parasite has shown resistance in lab tests to one of the most powerful drugs on the market -- a warning of possible resistance to follow in patients, scientists said Friday.

Recommended for you

Researchers create molecule that could 'kick and kill' HIV

October 5, 2017
Current anti-AIDS drugs are highly effective at making HIV undetectable and allowing people with the virus to live longer, healthier lives. The treatments, a class of medications called antiretroviral therapy, also greatly ...

A sixth of new HIV patients in Europe 50 or older: study

September 27, 2017
People aged 50 and older comprise a growing percentage of HIV patients in Europe, accounting for one in six new cases in 2015, researchers said Wednesday.

Three-in-one antibody protects monkeys from HIV-like virus

September 20, 2017
A three-pronged antibody made in the laboratory protected monkeys from infection with two strains of SHIV, a monkey form of HIV, better than individual natural antibodies from which the engineered antibody is derived, researchers ...

Fighting HIV on multiple fronts might lead to vaccine

September 20, 2017
A combination antibody strategy could be the key to halting the spread of HIV, according to results from two promising animal studies.

HIV-AIDS: Following your gut

September 18, 2017
Researchers at the University of Montreal Hospital Research Centre (CRCHUM) have discovered a way to slow viral replication in the gastrointestinal tract of people infected by HIV-AIDS.

Study finds cutbacks in foreign aid for HIV treatment would cause great harm

August 30, 2017
Proposed reductions in U.S. foreign aid would have a devastating impact on HIV treatment and prevention programs in countries receiving such aid, an international team of investigators reports. In their paper published online ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.