People in Britain who are infected with HIV have one of the highest levels of drug resistance in the world, and the rate is increasing, researchers said on Friday.
The trend suggests a wave of infections from a drug-resistant strain of the virus may be on the way, they reported in a study published in the British Medical Journal.
The report by the UK Group on Transmitted HIV Drug Resistance warned that the reduction in effective drugs to treat patients represented “a major clinical and public health problem.”
Their research was based on 2,357-HIV positive patients evaluated between 1996 and 2003.
The investigators found that 335 patients showed some degree of resistance to one or more of the antiretroviral drugs used to fight the HIV infection, which can lead to AIDS.
Most, 257 of these patients, were resistant to drugs in one class only, 44 were resistant to drugs in two classes and 34 were resistant to drugs in the three most commonly used drug classes.
The study said this was equivalent to a 14-percent rate of resistance over the study period, rising to 19 percent by 2003. This is higher than rates in other industrialized countries.
Drug resistance is estimated at 7 percent among chronically infected HIV patients in the United States, with a 6-percent resistance in France and 10- percent elsewhere in Europe.
Revision date: June 21, 2011
Last revised: by Andrew G. Epstein, M.D.