Scientists Discover the First New Strain of HIV in 19 Years

Scientists have discovered a new subtype of the deadly human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), called HIV-1 Group M, subtype L. The astounding findings were published in the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes (JAIDS).

Carole McArthur, professor in the departments of oral and craniofacial sciences, University of Missouri and one of the study authors.“This discovery reminds us that to end the HIV pandemic, we must continue to outthink this continuously changing virus and use the latest advancements in technology and resources to monitor its evolution.”

Scientists at American pharmaceutical company Abbott Laboratories announced the discovery, which marks the first time a new strain of HIV has been discovered since 2000 when guidelines for classifying new strains of HIV were established.

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HIV Can Mutate into Different Strains; Genome-Sequencing Can Help

According to the findings, the new strain is a subtype of HIV-1 Group M (called subtype L), and Group M is the strain that is responsible for 90% of the global HIV pandemic.

HIV is a virus, like hepatitis, that can evolve and grow into different strains so constant vigilance by scientists is a must.

The AIDS epidemic has devastated lives. 75 million people have been infected with HIV and 37.9 million people today are living with the virus says the Abbott press release. Thankfully, global public health has advanced and living with HIV does not mean a death sentence anymore - efforts to curb the pandemic are well underway.

So a new strain being discovered does seem frightening, but scientists at Abbott say that next-generation genome sequencing is helping them stay ahead of the mutating viruses by creating “an entire genome at higher speeds and lower costs.”

Mary Rodgers, a principal scientist and head of the Global Viral Surveillance Program, Diagnostics, Abbott, and one of the study authors.“Identifying new viruses such as this one is like searching for a needle in a haystack. By advancing our techniques and using next generation sequencing technology, we are pulling the needle out with a magnet. This scientific discovery can help us ensure we are stopping new pandemics in their tracks.”

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