Researchers at the giant health care provider Abbot have uncovered and identified the first new strain of HIV in nearly 20 years. The new strain emerged through mutation.
According to Scientific American, “The new strain, called HIV-1 group M subtype L, is extremely rare and can be detected by Abbott’s current screening system. The company’s tests screen more than 60 percent of the global blood supply, she adds, noting it must detect every strain and “has to be right every time.”“In the early days of HIV/AIDS in the 1980s and 1990s, some blood donors unaware that they had HIV added the virus to the blood supply. A large number of patients who needed regular blood transfusions—among them, many with hemophilia—ended up contracting HIV and often dying. The supply has been essentially clear of HIV for years and Rodgers says efforts such as Abbott’s will help keep it that way. The study, published today in the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes, serves as a reminder of the dangerous diversity of the HIV virus, says Jonah Sacha, a professor at the Vaccine and Gene Therapy Institute at Oregon Health & Science University , who was not involved in the new research.”
The virus’s ability to evolve and mutate is what has thwarted all efforts to develop a vaccine. The work is important because “a radically new viral strain could evade detection in the blood supply, avoid being controlled by drugs and render future vaccines ineffective.”