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Abbott Laboratories announced that it has identified a new subtype of the AIDS virus in three people, which the current tests can already detect. This type of classification helps scientists keep their therapeutic arsenal up to date. The purpose of genetic classification is to ensure that diagnostic tests recognize all HIV strains.
The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) mutates like all viruses. In fact, there are two different types of HIV viruses: HIV-1, which is responsible for almost all infections worldwide, and HIV-2.
A subtype of HIV-1
HIV-1 is genetically divided into four groups (M, N, O and P). Within the M group, which is responsible for the pandemic, there are nine subtypes represented by letters from A to K. The subtypes are divided into four groups (M, N, O and P). Abbott announced on Wednesday in a press release that they have identified a tenth subtype, “L”, in three people. Current antiretroviral treatments should work so far.
“As the L subtype is part of the core HIV group M, current treatments are expected to be effective against it,” explains Mary Rodgers, head of Abbott’s global virus surveillance program.
A strain that has been identified three times
This new mutation was identified in two blood samples taken in 1983 and 1990 in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo. However, to include a subtype in the official nomenclature, an independent third case was required under the rules established in 2000.
This case was finally discovered in a third suspect sample taken in 2001. Sequencing was not possible at the time because the amount of virus was too small, Abbott explained. But thanks to new technologies, scientists have recently been able to isolate the virus and confirm that it corresponds to the 1983 and 1990 strains.
Probably still circulating in the Democratic Republic of Congo
This subtype is therefore not new. According to the researchers, it is probably still circulating in the Democratic Republic of Congo and perhaps elsewhere.
But until proven otherwise, the strain is rare and has been identified only three times. Abbott says that sequencing is available to researchers who want to find other cases.
Identifying all the strains is imperative
The purpose of genetic classification is to ensure that diagnostic tests recognize all strains. This is the case with this L subtype, confirmed by Mary Rodgers to AFP.
“This discovery underscores that in order to end the HIV epidemic, we must be ahead of the virus and use the latest technologies and all available means to understand its reach,” says the researcher, co-author of the study published in the Journal “Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes”.