Scientists have discovered a new HIV strain for the first time in almost two decades

On Wednesday a research group from Abbott which is a medical device and healthcare giant has identified a new HIV strain making up a new subtype L.

The group aims to find out the potential HIV strains and ensuring that diagnostic tests for screening and detection of HIV are up to date.

The new discovered HIV strain is HIV-1 group M subtype L. This subtype is extremely rare. The finding for this study was published in the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes on Wednesday. It serves as a reminder of the dangerous diversity of HIV.

This diversity of HIV is probably why the virus is still evolving and ongoing with time making it difficult to develop a vaccine against HIV.

The use of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) has numerous consequences even though it has led to dramatically curbing the spread of HIV and improving the quality of life in many patients.

The drugs work by inhibiting multiplication and spread of HIV. The drugs put patients at a higher risk of developing cardiovascular complications and cancers

You can read about these drugs used in the treatment of HIV here.

The discovery of the new strain means that there is a probability that the new strain could evade detection by common blood tests making it be difficult to control by drugs or even making the future vaccine development difficult.

Comparing the sequence that was made available by the researchers, it was found out that it was similar to the ones from 1983 and 1990 all from the democratic republic of Congo. The sample that was used to identify this new strain was collected in 2001 and has been in the lab for about two decades. The development of new technology has made it possible to be fully studied.

The strain is not new but the technology used to study the virus is what has changed.

Why has it taken long to be identified?

Despite the two strains being around for some time, they were not recognized officially as a distinct subtype because three cases have to be detected independently for it to be recognized as a distinct subtype.

The two strains detected were very unusual and different from the others and it is this new discovery that has made it be identified as a subtype of its own.

The scientists were able to fully sequence the sample and come up with a picture of what it was and in fact, it was a new subtype L

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