Scientists have announced the discovery of a new strain of HIV. This is the first new HIV strain discovered in the past 19 years.
According to Scientific American, a research group working with health care company Abbott discovered the new strain called HIV-1 group M subtype L. The strain is extremely rare but can be detected through Abbott’s screening system. The system is extremely thorough and tests more than 60 percent of the global blood supply, according to Mary Rodgers who’s the senior paper author and head of Abbott’s Global Viral Surveillance Program.
The study was published today in the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes. Rodgers, her colleagues, and other health experts note the significance of the new strain is the acknowledgment that HIV is still a very real threat. That said, not every health expert thinks this new strain is a big deal. Michael Worobey, who heads the department of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Arizona and was not involved with the study, says that a diverse number of HIV strains in Central Africa is nothing surprising.
“It’s actually misleading to describe genetic diversity from the [Democratic Republic of the] Congo as a new subtype,” Worobey said, “because the only useful meaning of the term ‘subtype’” would come from the identification of a lineage of the virus that has spread significantly beyond Central Africa.
Despite Worobey’s words, Abbott is dedicated to searching out the full spectrum and diversity of the HIV virus. The researchers there believe that monitoring the strains is the best way to stay one step ahead of the virus.
“The full diversity has not been characterized. We’re going to continue to look,” says Rodgers.
Source: Scientific American