Cases of early development of AIDS symptoms in people who have contracted the HIV virus have been increasing, a Japanese researcher said Thursday.
According to Shinichi Oka, head of the AIDS Clinical Center of the National Center for Global Health and Medicine, a mutation of the human immuno virus is causing the earlier onset of AIDS symptoms.
Drugs are available to greatly delay the onset of AIDS symptoms. However, such treatment will become difficult if cases of early development of AIDS symptoms continue to increase.
Oka's team compared data of 42 people infected with HIV up until 1988 with that of 82 people confirmed to be infected between 1997 and 2007. The team compared numbers of a specific type of white blood cell.
Reductions in the amount of the white cells indicates a person's immunity is declining and they will eventually require treatment.
Among those infected by the end of 1988, 50 per cent did not require treatment within three to five years of contracting HIV.
However, among those infected after 1997, 50 per cent reached levels requiring treatment after six months.
Nearly 90 per cent of those people reached such levels within three years of contracting HIV.
Oka's research team is planning a major initiative to be undertaken at hospitals considered AIDS hubs in Japan and South Korea, investigating the development of symptoms and mechanisms behind the mutation of HIV.
In fiscal 2011, several domestic facilities will be investigated. From fiscal 2012 the number will increase to more than 10, including institutions in South Korea. Oka plans to gather information on more than 2,000 patients.
The research was to be officially endorsed by the national center after discussions at its ethics committee Thursday night.
It has been learned in recent years that the HIV virus has mutated into several strains and standard Japanese white blood cells struggle to cope with the new strains. This may be the cause of the faster onset of AIDS symptoms, medical sources said.