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HIV subtype linked to increased dementia risk

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Patients infected with a particular subtype of HIV are more likely to develop dementia than those with other subtypes, latest research suggests.

The study, led by John’s Hopkins University researchers, is the first to show that a specific type of HIV has any effect on cognitive impairment, one of the most common complications of uncontrolled HIV infection.

The researchers studied the cognitive function of 60 HIV infected patients from a clinic in Kampala, Uganda, the majority of whom had HIV subtypes A or D.

The study found that of the 33 subtype A patients, 24% had dementia. However, of the nine patients with subtype D, 89% had dementia, possibly because HIV subtype D causes more inflammation and injury in the brain, the researchers said.

“We were amazed to see such a dramatic difference in dementia frequencies between these two subtypes,” said lead study author Ned Sacktor, professor of neurology at John’s Hopkins University School of Medicine.

“If this is the case in all of sub-Saharan Africa, HIV-associated dementia may be one of the most common, but thus far unrecognised, dementias worldwide,” he added in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.

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