Sunday, 17 November, 2019

United States scientists identify new HIV strain, first in almost 20 years

A technician extracts blood from a patient for an HIV test at the Condesa Clinic which specialises in HIV in Mexico City New Strain of HIV Discovered for the First Time in Nearly Two Decades
Anna Jefferson | 08 November, 2019, 10:42

Researchers announced on Wednesday the discovery of a new strain of HIV, the first new strain of the virus identified since 2000.

Professor McArthur says it is the first new HIV "Group M" subtype in nearly 20 years and owes its discovery to more recent advances in next-generation sequencing.

The strain isn't new; rather, what's changed is the innovation used to think about the infection.

HIV has several different subtypes or strains, it also has the ability to change and mutate over time. This leads scientists to believe that the new strain will be treatable in similar ways to other group M infections.

According to estimates, 37.9 million people across the world are now living with HIV, while 1.7 million individuals contracted the virus a year ago.

But Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, noted that existing treatments for HIV work against this strain.

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.

"There's no reason to panic or even to worry about it a little bit", Fauci said.

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Since the discovery of HIV in 1983, over 75 million people have been infected with HIV and over 37 million persons are living with the virus today. "This is an outlier". Her laboratory has analyzed more than 60% of the global blood supply. In order for a new subtype to be declared, at least three cases must be detected and verified independently of each other. The first two were found in the Democratic Republic of Congo in the 1983 and 1990.

Rodgers says the almost decades-long process of verifying the strain's existence was akin to "searching for a needle in a haystack" and then removing the needle "with a magnet" afterward. The third suspected case was also drawn from Congo in 2001, but it wasn't a close enough match to the previous samples to be sure, and thorough genomic testing wasn't as accessible a decade ago as it is today. In other words, as technology advances, and scientists learn more, new subtypes will inevitably surface. The third sample was from a small study that was looking at mother to foetus transfer of the infection. In this new study the team could map out the whole genome of the new strain and confirm the existence of the new subtype. Rodgers described it as "searching for a needle in a haystack".

"By advancing our techniques and using next-generation sequencing technology, we are pulling the needle out with a magnet". "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. There are two types of the virus: HIV-1 and HIV-2, the latter of which is relatively rare.

Forms of this new strain of the HIV might be circulating, both in the DRC and elsewhere, but are unclassified as of now.

A United States healthcare company has identified a new subtype of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and said the finding showed that cutting edge genome sequencing is helping researchers stay ahead of mutations.

"The primary concern is that HIV might evolve to the extent that testing wouldn't work", said Rodgers.

"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". Moreover, like much reporting on medical research, there is important contextual information one needs to understand the significance of this news.

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