What would people living with HIV do differently if they knew that they could be infected again, with a new strain, that could complicate both their disease, and their treatment?
Superinfection, which happens when someone who already has been infected with one strain of HIV is subsequently infected with another strain, can contribute to faster disease progression, antiretroviral drug resistance, and greater risks of transmission, as viral levels spike in response to a second infection.
All the same many people don’t know it is possible, said Andrew Redd of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, during a session May 7 during the HPTN annual meeting. The numbers of superinfected individuals is unknown.
A study of HIV-positive men who have sex with men found that understanding the risks of superinfection was linked to more consistent condom use, indicating the value of relaying that information in treatment settings. And, while the superinfection has implications for vaccine research, showing that an immune response to HIV does not necessarily protect against a subsequent infection, researchers said information relevant to vaccine development might be gained from the immune systems of people at high risk who do not get superinfected.