Like Covid-19, HIV also has variants, and some are particularly dangerous

This has been our news for two years now. Alpha, Delta, Omicron… We are now familiar with the notion of “variant” in viruses, in this case for SARS-CoV-2. A new viral ‘variant of concern’, as defined by the World Health Organization (WHO), is distinguished by the mutations present in its genome, but that is not enough: it must also cause a distinct type of infection ( more contagious, more virulent, etc.) or its appearance must have an effect on the epidemic (for example lead to an increase in the number of cases).

What about other infectious diseases than Covid? Do other viruses also have their “variants”? How are these variants selected? And what consequences do they have for human health? We are interested in these questions for another major viral epidemic: AIDS, caused by HIV (human immunodeficiency virus).

If the official start date of the pandemic is June 5, 1981, the version of HIV at its origin has been evolving with our species for about a century: it is estimated that the virus passed from a chimpanzee to humans in the 1920s. , probably in Cameroon . The fact that the emergence of HIV is old (compared to that of SARS-CoV-2 or other emerging viruses) could suggest that the currently circulating virus is genetically relatively homogeneous and well adapted to the human species…

This is actually not the case.

Not one, but AIDS viruses


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