New HIV strain discovered after nearly two decades

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

Scientists have discovered HIV-1 group M subtype L, the first new strain of the HIV virus in 19 years.

HIV-1 group M subtype L belongs to the most common HIV group-and the one that has been responsible for the majority of infections in the HIV epidemic.

The strain isn't new; rather, what's changed is the innovation used to think about the infection. However, scientists are confident that with enormous advances in medical technology since the New York Times reported on a "rare cancer seen in 41 homosexuals" in July 1981, they will be able to effectively test for and treat the recently verified subtype.

According to the World Health Organization, about 36.7 million people worldwide live with HIV.

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.

S-based scientist and distinguished Otago alumna, Professor Carole McArthur and her team of researchers, are behind the recently-announced discovery and identification of a new HIV subtype, which has been characterised by USA healthcare company Abbott Laboratories.

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"There's no reason to panic or even to worry about it a little bit", Fauci said. Not many people are infected with this. "This is an outlier". For such massive numbers of testing the units need to be able to identify the new strains correctly.

In 2000 the guidelines for identification of a new strain of HIV were outlined.

"I would expect it to respond to treatment the same way those other strains do", Rodgers told NBC News.

The third sample was collected 18 years ago but was hard to the sequence is given technical constraints at the time. "Therefore, the CG-0018a-01 sequence will be important for determining the origins and age of subtype L", the researchers noted. The third sample was from a small study that was looking at mother to foetus transfer of the infection.

Scientists began studying this third sample in order to map it and provide thorough evidence for a third strain, in a process described as being "like searching for a needle in a haystack", and then "pulling the needle out with a magnet". The team wrote, "Metagenomic (mNGS) and HIV-specific target enriched (HIV-xGen) libraries were combined for next generation sequencing (NGS) to extend genome coverage". "There is a very high likelihood that this new subtype, or any new group M subtype of recombinant form, would not behave differently to how it would be detected by diagnostic assay or respond to antiviral treatment", Shafer told Salon. Both subtypes and sub-subtypes of the HIV-1 M group are believed to have originated from a single chimpanzee-to-human transmission. "Since CG-0018a-01 is more closely related to an ancestral strain than to isolates from 1983 or 1990, additional strains are likely circulating in DRC and possibly elsewhere".

They were confirmed new based on their whole genome analysis using Abbot's newly developed HIV screening technology which Rodgers claimed "can be a real challenge for diagnostic tests".

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