Reports of highest resistance rates of the HIV virus in the UK has come just in time before the World AIDS Day that is to be celebrated on December 1st. This has created panic among the scientific community, raising a possibility of a second wave epidemic of resistant virus.
Anti-retroviral drugs are currently used in the management of AIDS victims. The currently available drugs are Zidovudine, Stavudine, Lamivudine, Abacavir, Indinavir, Efavirenz, Nevirapine and Didanosine. A combination of these drugs is usually used for anti-retroviral therapy against the virus.
The researchers set to determine the sensitivity of the HIV positive patients, before embarking on the treatment. More than 2000 patients listed in the national health records between 1996 and 2003 were tested.
Analysis of the results obtained revealed that 335 people showed some degree of resistance to one or more antiretroviral drugs in total. Most of these people - 257 - were resistant to drugs within one class only, 44 cases showed resistance to drugs within two classes and 34 showed resistance to drugs within all three commonly used drug classes.
The figures account for a resistance rate of approximately 14% rate of resistance to one or more of the drugs used. It had mounted up to an alarmingly 19% during the time period of 2002-2003. This is much higher in comparison to rates in USA, France and Europe where it is 7, 6 and 10 % respectively.
The authors say: 'The United Kingdom has among the highest reported rates of primary resistance to HIV drugs worldwide. By limiting the therapeutic options for a significant number of patients, the secondary epidemic of drug resistant HIV represents a major clinical and public health problem.'
The findings of the present study could mask the large reductions in deaths and improvements to health in people with HIV.