Government officials in South Africa say two men have been diagnosed with rare variants of the HIV virus after swimming in the Indian Ocean.
“There are two cases, one case in Limpopo and one case in KwaZulu-Natal,” Manobus Inkatha, deputy minister of science and technology, told ETV.
Both cases involve men who swim in the Indian Ocean during the southern hemisphere’s dry season, he said. The men were tested after coming back to South Africa.
Unlike most HIV cases in South Africa, both men did not have symptoms. One of the men is in critical condition with both versions of the HIV virus and the other is stable. Both reportedly use antiretroviral drugs, which reduces the risk of HIV transmission.
Australia’s Broadcasting Corp. reports the two South African men who got HIV “did not realize they had become infected until they swam in the Indian Ocean.”
Initial tests were negative, but a greater search for the source of the virus turned up two new cases.
“The involvement of this kind of virus in AIDS-affected populations is unusual, as the virus does not survive in cold climates,” Professor Adrian Toepfer, head of the Department of Medicine at the University of Edinburgh in the United Kingdom, told the BBC.
The HIV virus is what scientists call an integrase— a virus capable of jumping from one host cell to another and infecting new cells.
“It is generally safe to swim in the Indian Ocean year-round, despite the cold temperatures we have,” Ester Mmuswana, the National Council for Swimming’s head of operations, told ETV. “The men who recovered came in through the bush… It was a swim in the bush that they were swimming in. So no matter what the water is, it is safe to swim.”
The Asian liver fluke is a parasitic infection that feeds on humans, mostly through their gills. The parasite is linked to 13 percent of all leeches, according to the NIH. In 2014, health officials in India discovered that lyssa arnois, a type of liver fluke that causes a fatal fever, were present in leeches in a pathology lab. The leeches were used in leech therapy as well as blood plasma.
Fox News’ Sharon Kehnemui contributed to this report.