HIV strain discovered by scientists in United States after 19 years

HIV strain discovered by scientists in United States after 19 years

The third was collected in 2001, but it was challenging to sequence because of existing technology. Although the identification of a new strain provides a clearer map of how the HIV virus evolves.

Pharma major Abbott has reported that a team of Abbott scientists have identified the HIV-1 Group M, subtype L virus.

The scientists have classified the new subtype as HIV-1 group M, subtype L, the first new subtype identified since guidelines for HIV nomenclature were established in 2000.

Scientists had to discover three independent cases of the new strain in order to officially declare that it was a new subtype.

This will be the first time in 19 years for such report since guidelines for grouping HIV subtypes were announced at the turn of the millennium.

Forms of this new strain of the HIV might be circulating, both in the DRC and elsewhere, but are unclassified as of now. Group M viruses are responsible for the global pandemic, which can be traced back to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in Sub-Saharan Africa. There is no motivation to accept this subtype is more hazardous or destructive than some other strain of HIV.

A senior faculty member at AIIMS, New Delhi, who did not want to be named said that sequencing of this strain is a significant development in understanding, prevention and treatment of HIV because it is part of what has caused the most infections in humans. Moreover, like much reporting on medical research, there is important contextual information one needs to understand the significance of this news.

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At present, more than 37 million people live with HIV worldwide, the most on record, with some 1.8 million new infections diagnosed in 2016 alone.

"Identifying new viruses such as this one is like searching for a needle in a haystack", said study co-author Mary Rodgers from Abbott. "Not a lot of people are infected with this".

Mr Cunningham said before Thursday's discovery there were HIV subtypes ranging from A to K, with various mutations of those subtypes themselves.

They were able to fully sequence the sample, meaning they were able to create a full picture of what it was, and determine that it was, in fact, subtype L of Group M. "We're sharing this strain with the scientific community so others can work on the strain and hopefully that can advance things like vaccines and treatments".

The subtype of the virus was discovered in 2001, but new DNA sequencing technology helped scientists confirm the new strain. This strain is very rare, and expected to have the same response to existing antiretroviral therapies, which work incredibly well; if diagnosed early, HIV positive people now have almost the same life expectancy as those who are HIV negative.

"We really need to be monitoring them to stay one step ahead of the virus", she said, adding that "the program now includes 78,000 samples from 45 countries".

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