HIV has been dormant in its strains for close to 20-years, though scientists have now, for the first time, found a new strain of the deadly virus. The newly identified strain is more like an ancestral strain and likely circulating in the Democratic Republic of Congo, according to a new study published in the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes.
According to Scientific American, a research group at the medical device and health care giant Abbott has discovered a new strain of human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV—the first to be identified in 19 years. Abbott continues to look for potential new HIV strains to ensure that diagnostic tests for blood screening and detecting infectious diseases remain up to date, said Mary Rodgers, senior author of the paper announcing the finding and head of the company’s Global Viral Surveillance Program.
The new strain, called HIV-1 group M subtype L, is extremely rare and can be detected by Abbott’s current screening system, Rodgers said. The company’s tests screen more than 60 percent of the global blood supply, she adds, noting it must detect every strain and “has to be right every time.”
Researchers at Abbott Laboratories in Illinois examined the strain in another specimen collected from the region as part of separate research on the prevention of HIV transmission from mother to child.
The specimen confirmed the new subtype and the ongoing transmission of the virus in that part of the world as recently as 2001.
Researchers hope identifying new viruses like this one will help ensure new pandemics are stopped.
The finding marks the first time a new strain has been identified since 2000, according to researchers.
In the early days of HIV/AIDS in the 1980s and 1990s, some blood donors unaware that they had HIV added the virus to the blood supply. A large number of patients who needed regular blood transfusions—among them, many with hemophilia—ended up contracting HIV and often dying. The supply has been essentially clear of HIV for years, and Rodgers says efforts such as Abbott’s will help keep it that way.
More than 37 million people worldwide have been infected with HIV or AIDS.