Genetic sequence variation in blood and sperm of HIV men

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Mumbai, Feb 14: A distinct variation has been recorded in the genetic sequence of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) in the blood vessels from that of the sperm in a few infected men, according to a new study, which scientists claim may help in understanding any resistance to the anti-retroviral treatment.

The study was conducted by scientists at the National Institute of Research in Reproductive Health in collaboration with the state-owned JJ hospital here.

"The virus associated with seminal cells including sperm and leukocytes is also been reported to be the risk factor for sexual transmission of HIV. This finding assumes significance due to the resulting instability of the virus in the same person, which may affect the treatment regimen. However, this may help in understanding any resistance to the anti-retroviral," the scientists said.

"This finding could also be an important warning to those who allow HIV positive men to have children using infertility treatment, where sperm of the patient is washed," Dr A H Bandivdekar, Assistant Director and Head, Biochemistry Division of NIRRH of Indian council of Medical Research told PTI.

Initally, the scientists studied six HIV infected men from the J J hospital antiretroviral clinic and in their further study, more men are being analysed for similar variations.

"This practice (washing of sperms) may need a re-look and we also have to study further if the sperm wash is indeed completely safe in not transmitting the virus to the embryo," he said.

"The study demonstrates the presence of distinct viral variants in the sperm, seminal leukocytes and Peripheral blood mononuclear cell (PBMC) of the same individuals having differential infectivity and N-linked glycosylation (NLG) sites," Bandivdekare explained.

"NLG sites, which may influence HIV affinity to host cells and neutralising anti-bodies and therefore the sexual transmission and pathogenesis of HIV as well as progression to AIDS," Bandivdekar said in a paper titled ''Characterisation of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV1 C) Variants in Peripheral Blood Mononuclear Cells (PBMCs) and Spermatozoa,'' which has been accepted by the Journal of Medical Virology.

Dr Alaka Deshpande, who is in-charge of the anti-retroviral treatment centre of J J hospital and co-author said the study was part of continuing research about HIV-discordant couples of whom only one partner has the virus.

Deshpande said the doctors can no longer say that sperms are 100 per cent free of the HIV (as it is largely believed).

Bandivdekar said, HIV is a RNA virus which needs to convert into DNA using reverse transcriptase enzyme gene of the virus and this activity is poor in the case of HIV which results in to continuous viral mutation.

This also results in presence different viral variants having different viral sequences in the same HIV infected individuals. Also, different cells including sperm and PBMCs of the same individuals showed presence of different isolates of HIV, he explained.

This could be the reason that there is no one medicine for cure or a vaccine so far to prevent the disease and strengthening the immune system of the person could be the only solution at present, he added.

When asked about the practise of allowing HIV positive men to have own children by washing their sperms, IVF (testtube baby) expert Dr Indira Hinduja, said, "such a practise should not be encouraged and it poses risk not only to the person's future child but his wife and even to others who come to the infertility clinic."

PTI

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