Discovery of a New Strain of HIV

Henrietta Strickland
November 7, 2019

"The study, published today in the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes, serves as a reminder of the risky diversity of the HIV virus, says Jonah Sacha, a professor at the Vaccine and Gene Therapy Institute at Oregon Health & Science University, who was not involved in the new research".

Researchers from Abbott diagnostics claimed that this research marks the first time a new subtype of "Group M" HIV virus has been identified since guidelines for classifying new strains of HIV were established in 2000. The first two samples of this subtype were discovered in DRC in the 1980s and the 1990s.

Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, said that even if the current medical care provided for HIV patients is effective, new strains is a reminder that there are still more to know about the virus, including how it evolves.

Rogers, principal scientist at Abbott, said that it is important to look for new strains so that "we can accurately detect it, no matter where it happens to be in the world".

"We're making this new strain accessible to the research community to evaluate its impact to diagnostic testing, treatments and potential vaccines".

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.

Rodgers said that the strains were "very unusual" as it was not similar to other strains. At the time, there wasn't technology to determine if this was the new subtype. "In order to utilize this technology, Abbott scientists had to develop and apply new techniques to help narrow in on the virus portion of the sample to fully sequence and complete the genome", according to the statement.

"By advancing our techniques and using next generation sequencing technology, we are pulling the needle out with a magnet". In the following year, they were able to confirm the initial finding, and called it "Subtype L". UNAIDS estimates that in 2016, some 1.8 million people became newly infected.

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