Doctors aren't anxious about new HIV strain - here's why

Laverne Higgins
November 8, 2019

Although the identification of a new strain provides a clearer map of how the HIV virus evolves. The outlet reports that Group M is the same group of virus subtypes that previously caused the HIV pandemic across the globe.

This is important research because it helps researchers identify the circulating strains of the virus say the authors of the study. Rodgers said it was "like searching for a needle in a haystack", and then "pulling the needle out with a magnet".

This research marks the first time a new subtype of "Group M" HIV virus has been identified since guidelines for classifying new strains of HIV were established in 2000. To declare this a new subtype, researchers had to detect three cases of it independently. In other words, as technology advances, and scientists learn more, new subtypes will inevitably surface.

"The subtype has been around as long as all the other strains have".

HIV has several different subtypes or strains, and like other viruses, it has the ability to change and mutate over time.

However, Dr. Anthony Fauci with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases told CNN that the current treatments for HIV are still effective against this new strain. Fortunately, the available HIV treatments are capable of fighting a wide variety of virus strains, and it is believed that these same treatments can also combat this new one.

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

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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.

Since that group of infections is so unavoidable, specialists accept sedates effectively used to control HIV would work for subtype L, as well.

They were able to fully sequence the sample, meaning they were able to create a full picture of what it was, and determine that it was, in fact, subtype L of Group M. This strain is very rare, and expected to have the same response to existing antiretroviral therapies, which work incredibly well; if diagnosed early, HIV positive people now have almost the same life expectancy as those who are HIV negative.

Specimen CG-0018a-01, which has been sequenced to reveal that it is a hitherto unknown subtype of HIV, was collected in 2001 in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as part of an HIV prevention of mother to child transmission (PMTCT) study.

The new strain has been identified in part due to advancements in screening technologies, with the 2001 sample containing too low an amount of the HIV virus to be properly read when it was first collected. Yet researchers must remain vigilant to monitor for new strains to make sure testing and treatments continue to work.

"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".

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