Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education



Front Page

World

UK

UK Politics

Business

Sci/Tech

Health

Education

Sport

Entertainment

Talking Point
On Air
Feedback
Low Graphics
Help

Wednesday, October 14, 1998 Published at 19:14 GMT 20:14 UK


Health

Different HIV strains infect blood and semen

AZT: Drugs do not kill off all infection

HIV treatments that combat the virus in the blood may be useless at tackling infection in the semen, scientists have discovered.

Research indicates that men infected with HIV can have different strains of the virus in their blood and semen.

The discovery has major implications for the treatment of HIV and Aids.

It means that even when a blood test indicates that the infection has been significantly reduced in the blood, the virus may persist in the reproductive organs.

Alison Gray, health promotion officer for the Terrence Higgins Trust, said the research proved that there was no room for complacency in the fight against HIV.

She said: "This research shows that people have still got to practice safe sex.

"People may think that a low level of virus in the blood may mean they are less infectious, but there may well be a high level of the virus in the semen, and most people contract HIV through contact with semen, and not blood."

Swiss and American scientists conducted the research over a three-year period on 11 HIV-infected men.

No trace in semen


[ image: Aids awareness is still vital]
Aids awareness is still vital
Blood tests on two patients indicated that the protease inhibitor drugs they were receiving were present in the bloodstream.

However, tests on the semen of the same two patients revealed no trace of the drug at all.

In another patient, the drug AZT was found in the sperm viruses, but only occurred later in the blood viruses.

The scientists claimed this was proof the reproductive organs and bloodstream acted as virtually independent "compartments" which had to be dealt with separately, and that the viruses in the bloodstream and the semen were not attacked by drugs in the same way.

The discovery was announced on Wednesday in the Aids Journal by two teams led by Dr Pietro Vernazza, from St Gall Cantonal Hospital, Switzerland, and Dr Joseph Eron, from University of North Carolina, USA.

They wrote in the journal: "Our observations may have substantial consequences for newly infected individuals and for public health."

They said it should be a public health priority to tackle HIV infection in the genital tract.



Advanced options | Search tips




Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage | ©


Health Contents

Background Briefings
Medical notes

Relevant Stories

19 Jun 98 | Health
Super bug risk from poor HIV care

15 Jun 98 | Latest News
Sex disease epidemic poses huge threat

26 May 98 | Latest News
AIDS treatment gap widens





Internet Links


Terrence Higgins Trust

HIV and aids links

More HIV and aids information


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.




In this section

Disability in depth

Spotlight: Bristol inquiry

Antibiotics: A fading wonder

Mental health: An overview

Alternative medicine: A growth industry

The meningitis files

Long-term care: A special report

Aids up close

From cradle to grave

NHS reforms: A guide

NHS Performance 1999

From Special Report
NHS in crisis: Special report

British Medical Association conference '99

Royal College of Nursing conference '99