US lab identifies rare new HIV strain

Experts say however there’s no reason to panic.
 By Nico Lang November 07 2019 10:57 AM EST

The new strain is a part of the same family of virus subtypes that have fueled the global HIV pandemic, according to Abbott Laboratories, which conducted the research with the University of Missouri.

The researchers said the guidelines for determining whether an unusual virus was a new HIV subtype required three independent cases of the virus to be reported.

The third sample, they said, was hard to sequence at that time because of the amount of virus in the sample, and the existing technology.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, assured that the present drugs that are active against HIV are capable of fighting this new strain of HIV as well. Since the beginning of the HIV epidemic, 75 million people worldwide have been infected with the virus. "This is an outlier". "So we've literally created technology that acts like a magnet to pull out that needle in the haystack and sequence just the virus".

The new strain has been identified in part due to advancements in screening technologies, with the 2001 sample containing too low an amount of the HIV virus to be properly read when it was first collected.

According to the UNAIDS there have been 1.8 million new cases of HIV infection in 2016 and at present 36.7 million people are living with HIV says the World Health Organization (WHO). Since then, this is the first time that a Group M HIV strain has been identified.

At the time of collection of a blood sample that showed up this new strain genomics was not as developed as now.

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Mary Rodgers, a co-author of the report and head of Global Viral Surveillance Program at Abbott, in her statement said, "It can be a real challenge for diagnostic tests". The subtype belongs to the M group of HIV that is said to have caused the most infections.

Indeed, new subtype discoveries have been a result of full-genome sequencing, and have helped identify unique recombinant forms.

The strain is now known as subtype L, the 10th strain of Group M. Different subtypes can also combine to form a "circulating recombinant form", also known as a CRF.

"Despite being the most recently sequenced subtype L strain, CG-0018a-01 branched basal to the two older strains from 1990 and 1983, consistent with CG-0018a-01 being more closely related to the ancestral subtype L strain than the other two isolates".

This is significant in light of the fact that it helps researchers precisely recognize the wide assortment of HIV strains available for use all inclusive, Rodgers said. Yet researchers must remain vigilant to monitor for new strains to make sure testing and treatments continue to work. "We're going to continue to look".

"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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