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US Lab Discovers Rare New HIV Strain, First In Almost 20 Years

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A US healthcare company recently identified a new subtype of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). It then said the finding showed that cutting edge genome sequencing helps researchers stay ahead of mutations. This is the first strain of the immune disease to be discovered in nearly 20 years.


The strain is HIV-1 Group M subtype L. The researchers recorded it in three people from blood samples taken between the 1980s and 2001. They took all the samples in the Democratic Republic of Congo.


Guidelines issued in 2000 state that to classify a new subtype, three cases must be discovered independently.


Group M is the most prevalent form of the HIV-1 virus. Subtype L is now the 10th of this group and the first identified since the issuance of the guidelines.


Antiretroviral drugs reduce the viral load of an HIV carrier to the point at which the infection is both undetectable and cannot be transmitted further. According to research, these drugs have generally performed well against a variety of subtypes.


But there is also some evidence of subtype differences in drug resistance.




“Since subtype L is part of the major group of HIV, Group M, I would expect current treatments to work with it,”  Mary Rodgers, a principal scientist and head of the Global Viral Surveillance Program at Abbott, told AFP.


She added that Abbott was making the sequence available to the research community to evaluate its impact on diagnostic testing, treatments and potential vaccines.


“In an increasingly connected world, we can no longer think of viruses contained to one location,” added Carole McArthur. McArthur is a professor of oral and craniofacial sciences at the University of Missouri Kansas City. She co-authored a paper on the finding in the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes (JAIDS).


The third sample of the new HIV strain was collected 18 years ago but was difficult to sequence, given the technical constraints at the time.


Abbott also said the breakthrough was possible thanks to next-generation sequencing technology that allowed scientists to build up an entire genome at higher speed and lower cost.


“This discovery reminds us that to end the HIV pandemic, we must continue to outthink this virus and use the latest advancements in technology and resources to understand its full scope,” said Rodgers.

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