New HIV strain identified, first in 19 years

Researchers have discovered the first new strain of HIV since 2000, according to research published Nov. 6 in the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes.

Abbott Laboratories, which screens more than 60 percent of the global blood supply, detected the rare HIV strain in three samples. One sample dated back to 2001, when there wasn't available technology to register the new strain, called HIV-1 group M subtype L. 

"Now that we know it exists, it'll change how we look for it," Mary Rodgers, PhD, senior author of the paper and head of Abbott's Global Viral Surveillance Program, told Scientific American. She added that the recently discovered subtype belongs to the most common form of HIV, group M, which accounts for more than 90 percent of all HIV cases.

"The calling card of HIV is its diversity. That's what's defeated all of our attempts to create a vaccine," Jonah Sacha, PhD, a professor at the Vaccine and Gene Therapy Institute at Portland-based Oregon Health & Science University, who was not involved in the new research, told Scientific American. 

However, a different health expert who was not involved in the study said identifying a new strain doesn't add much to the knowledge of HIV. It isn't surprising to find several diverse HIV strains in Central Africa, which is where the virus originated, Michael Worobey, PhD, head of ecology and evolutionary biology at Tucson-based University of Arizona, told Scientific American

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