This is the first such discovery in close to 20 years, and an important one for researchers
A team of scientists with US-based healthcare company Abbott has identified a new subtype of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), called HIV-1 Group M, subtype L, said a note from the company.
The findings, published on Wednesday in the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes (JAIDS), show the role next-generation genome sequencing is playing in helping researchers stay one step ahead of mutating viruses and avoiding new pandemics, it said.
This research marks the first time a new subtype of ‘Group M’ HIV virus has been identified since guidelines for classifying new strains were established in 2000. Group M viruses are responsible for the global pandemic, which can be traced back to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in Sub-Saharan Africa, Abbott said.
Since the beginning of the global AIDS pandemic, 75 million people have been infected with HIV and 37.9 million people today are living with the virus.
Despite the work done by the global health community over the last few decades in tackling the HIV pandemic, researchers still need to remain vigilant to monitor for new strains to make sure testing and treatments continue to work, the company said.
“In an increasingly connected world, we can no longer think of viruses being contained to one location,” said Carole McArthur, professor in the departments of oral and craniofacial sciences, University of Missouri — Kansas City, and one of the study authors. “This discovery reminds us that to end the HIV pandemic, we must continue to outthink this continuously changing virus and use the latest advancements in technology and resources to monitor its evolution.”