A new strain of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, has been identified by scientists.
The new strain, called HIV-1 group M subtype L, is extremely rare. Its discovery marked the first time a new subtype of HIV-1 was identified since 2000, when guidelines for classifying new strains of the virus were established.
Group M viruses are the ones that are responsible for the global pandemic, in which 75 million people became infected since the beginning of the crisis in the early ‘80s.
This latest Group M subtype was detected by researchers with Abbott Laboratories, working along with the University of Missouri, Kansas City (UMKC).
"In an increasingly connected world, we can no longer think of viruses being contained to one location,” Carole McArthur, a professor in the departments of oral and craniofacial sciences at UMKC, and one of the study authors, said in a statement.
“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,” she added.
"Identifying new viruses such as this one is like searching for a needle in a haystack," she said, noting that Abbott continuously looks for potential new strains of the virus, in order to maintain testing up to date.
“By advancing our techniques and using next generation sequencing technology, we are pulling the needle out with a magnet. This scientific discovery can help us ensure we are stopping new pandemics in their tracks,” she added.
Abbott’s laboratories test more than 60% of the world’s blood supply. The company’s scientists are always in search of new strains, so “we can accurately detect it, no matter where it happens to be in the world.”