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Monday, Nov 18, 2019

New strain of HIV virus discovered after nearly 20 years

The new subtype of the human immunodeficiency virus is called HIV-1 Group M, subtype L, the group that’s led to global pandemic. It’s reportedly after 19 years that a new strain has been found.

health Updated: Nov 07, 2019 13:02 IST
Rhythma Kaul
Rhythma Kaul
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
US scientists at the medical device and healthcare major Abbott labs discovered a new strain of HIV virus, the company has announced.
US scientists at the medical device and healthcare major Abbott labs discovered a new strain of HIV virus, the company has announced.(Shutterstock (Representative Image))
         

Scientists at US healthcare major Abbott Laboratories have discovered a new strain of HIV virus, the company has announced.

The new subtype of the human immunodeficiency virus is called HIV-1 Group M, subtype L, the group that led to a global pandemic. A new strain of the HIV virus has been found after 19 years.

“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. 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,” said Abbott in a statement.

The findings, published in the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (JAIDS), show the role next-generation genome sequencing is playing in helping researchers stay a step ahead of mutating viruses and avoiding pandemics.

Since the beginning of the global AIDS pandemic, 75 million people have been infected with HIV and 37.9 million people today are living with the virus.

Even though the new HIV infections are going down globally, researchers are monitoring new strains to make sure testing and treatments continue to work.

There is no cure for AIDS, the disease caused by the HIV virus, but the viral load is controlled through Antiretroviral (ART) therapy.

Abbott created its Global Viral Surveillance Program 25 years ago to monitor HIV and hepatitis viruses and identify mutations to ensure improved testing mechanisms.

“Identifying new viruses such as this one is like searching for a needle in a haystack,” said Mary Rodgers, principal scientist and head of the Global Viral Surveillance Program, Diagnostics at Abbott, and one of the study authors, in a statement.

“By advancing our techniques and using next generation sequencing technology, we are pulling the needle out with a magnet. This discovery can help us ensure we are stopping new pandemics in their tracks,” she added.

The company is making the new strain accessible to the research community to evaluate its impact to diagnostic testing, treatments and potential vaccines.