Researchers Discover New HIV Strain After 20 Years

For the first time in 19 years a team of scientists has detected a new strain of HIV

Researchers at Abbott Laboratories, a giant medical devices and health care company, discovered the new subtype, which is known as HIV-1 Group M, subtype L. Their findings were published in the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes (JAIDS). Identifying a new strain helps to better show how HIV evolves. What Abbott and University of Missouri managed to do with their new technology was to develop a "magnet" that could pull the needle form the haystack, she explained.

However, Michael Worobey, head of the department of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Arizona says the latest revelation is actually not that big of a deal given that the new subtype belongs to the most common form of HIV which accounts for roughly 90 percent of all cases.

When it comes to HIV-1, there are four different groups: Group M, Group N, Group O, and Group P. Group M is responsible for the majority of the global HIV epidemic, but within Group M there are at least nine genetically distinct subtypes of HIV-1.

Scientists such as Abbott's Mary Rodgers say it's crucial to understand the various strains to ensure tests for the virus are accurate. HIV-1 is the causative agent of worldwide HIV infections. The first two were found in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1983 and 1990, while the third was found in Congo in 2001 as part of a small study aimed at preventing mother-to-child HIV transmission.

While subtype L appears now restricted to the Democratic Republic of Congo, the scientists said, continued molecular surveillance would be essential to determine its true prevalence and other rare or emerging strains of HIV.


"There's no reason to panic or even to worry about it a little bit", Fauci said. According to the guidelines in 2020, to classify this new subtype, three cases must be discovered independently.

Since the discovery of HIV in 1983, over 75 million people have been infected with HIV and over 37 million persons are living with the virus today.

The third sample, they said, was hard to sequence at that time because of the amount of virus in the sample, and the existing technology. From 1977-1979 she carried out post-doctoral study at the University of Florida and obtained an MD degree from the University of Missouri-Kansas City in 1991. In fact the team was not sure if the new strain behaved any differently within the body from other HIV strains.

"We're making this new strain accessible to the research community to evaluate its impact to diagnostic testing, treatments and potential vaccines". In the current study, the researchers developed new techniques with next-generation sequencing technology to help narrow in on the virus portion of the sample to fully sequence and complete the viral genome. "We can never become complacent, we need to be proactive and we're working to stay a step ahead of the virus".

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