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NY Case-Researchers say Not A Super Virus
  Last Updated: 2005-02-14 9:07:46 -0400 (Reuters Health)
NEW YORK (Reuters) - One day after the discovery of a drug-resistant, fast-developing AIDS case in New York prompted city health officials to announce an alert, leading experts said on Saturday there may be little cause for alarm.
"There is absolutely no evidence that this is a super virus," Dr. Robert Gallo, director of the University of Maryland's Institute for Human Virology, told Reuters. Dr. Gallo is a co-discoverer of HIV.
A New York City health department spokeswoman stood by the city's handling of the case.
New York health officials announced on Friday that "a highly resistant strain of a rapidly progressive" HIV had been diagnosed for the first time in a city resident.
The case was found in an unidentified man in his 40s who had multiple male partners and unprotected anal sex, often while using crystal methamphetamine. The man developed AIDS as early as 2-3 months after infection, and no more than 20 months, the officials said.
Dr. Thomas Frieden, commissioner of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, called the case a potential major problem and the department issued an alert to hospitals and doctors to test for evidence of the strain of HIV.
The strain was resistant to three of the four classes of AIDS drugs, and the concern was compounded by the fast onset of the disease, the health department said.
"It's a wake-up call to men who have sex with men, particularly those who may use crystal methamphetamine," Dr. Frieden said in a statement on the department's Web site (
The health department quoted Dr. David Ho, head of the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center in New York, as calling the case "alarming," and urging a close watch for similar cases.
However, Dr. Gallo said that while it was prudent to pay attention to the case, there was no evidence that the virus in question could be transmitted. He said the type of HIV that may be involved in the New York man's case can be particularly virulent, but it is difficult to transmit.
"This is not novel and the odds are enormous that it (the virus) is not going to go anywhere," he said. What could change the assessment is if there are multiple cases of the virus being retransmitted, he said.
Dr. John Moore, an AIDS researcher at Cornell University's Medical School, was similarly cautious over the New York health department's announcement.
"Is this particular virus something that completely changes the equation? No, I don't think it does," he said. "Rather than a big superbug, it might turn out to be quite wimpy." He added that HIV with multiple drug resistance does not transmit as easily as nonresistant strains.
New York health department spokeswoman Sandra Mullin defended the department's handling of the case. "It's not an announcement we made lightly," she said. "We asked a lot of questions, we did a lot of laboratory tests, we did a lot of checking," including discussing the issue with other leading AIDS and health authorities, she said.


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