Scientists discover first new HIV strain since 2000

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National News

November 7, 2019 - 10:16 AM

CHICAGO — Scientist Mary Rodgers spends her days tracking killers — elusive, constantly mutating viruses that travel the globe and are responsible for illness or death in millions of people. Wednesday, in an article published in the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes, Rodgers and her team at Abbott, along with co-authors at the University of Missouri, announced their discovery of the first new subtype of the HIV virus identified since 2000.

“We’re always looking for viruses,” said Rodgers, who heads the Global Viral Surveillance Program at Lake County-based Abbott, a team of researchers who focus on identifying new strains of hepatitis and HIV and following trends in identified strains. “I think a lot of people might not realize that there is more than one strain of HIV, and at Abbott we’re making tests to catch all these different strains, so it’s important that we know all the different types out there.”

The newly discovered strain, called HIV-1 Group M, subtype L, was first collected in the 1980s in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, but there were only two samples that could be examined via gene sequencing. Abbott researchers, Rodgers said, took note, but could not advance further toward positively identifying a new form of the virus — a third sample was needed to confirm the discovery. In 2001, a sample that appeared to be similar was collected, but this time the sample couldn’t be fully sequenced. “We couldn’t synthesize the virus,” Rodgers said. “The quantity in the sample was just too small.”

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