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New strain of HIV virus found; scientists say no cause for alarm

Posted: Friday, November 8, 2019. 8:39 pm CST.

By BBN Staff: Scientists have discovered a new strain of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) for the first time in almost 20 years, but do not feel that the discovery should be cause for alarm.

CNN reports that the research, which discovered the new strain, was done by Abbott Laboratories in collaboration with the University of Missouri, Kansas City, and discovered that the new strain belongs to the Group M of the virus, and is the first new strain of Group M to be discovered since the guidelines for classifying subtypes were
established in 2000.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), noted that the new strain is rare and that current treatments for HIV are effective against this strain and others. Given that no tests have been conducted in Belize, it is unknown whether anyone in the country has the new subtype; however, the Anti-Retroviral (ARV) medications distributed in Belize and in the region have been proven effective against the known strains.

“There’s no reason to panic or even to worry about it a little bit,” Fauci said. “Not a lot of people are infected with this. This is an outlier.”

He noted that the discovery does give a more accurate picture of the evolution of the virus. 

Study co-author, Dr. Carole McArthur, a professor in the department of oral and craniofacial sciences at the University of Missouri, Kansas City, agreed with that sentiment, stressing that continually learning more about the virus will be key in addressing its global effect.

“This discovery reminds us that to end the HIV pandemic, we must continue to out-think this continuously changing virus and use the latest advancements in technology and resources to monitor its evolution,” McArthur said.

According to the World Health Organization, around 36.7 million people in the world are living with HIV. The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS ( UNAIDS) estimates that in 2016, some 1.8 million people became newly infected.

In Belize, the latest HIV data dates back to 2016, when a total of 225 new cases were reported.


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