Scientists have discovered a new strain of HIV for the first time since 2000, according to a new study.
The study, which was first reported by CNN, was published Wednesday in the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes. Researchers with Abbott Laboratories and the University of Missouri found a new strain that is part of the Group M, subtype L version of HIV-1.
According to CNN, the HIV virus and its various subtypes are able to change and mutate over time, and this is the first new Group M strain identified in 19 years. The outlet reports that Group M is the same group of virus subtypes that previously caused the HIV pandemic across the globe.
Scientists had to discover three independent cases of the new strain in order to officially declare that it was a new subtype. According to the study, the first two were found in 1983 and 1990 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the third was found in the country in 2001.
It took 18 years for scientists to determine the 2001 sample was subtype L of Group M because researchers had to develop new technologies and techniques to sequence the sample.
The discovery of the new strain is important as it can help scientists and doctors track how HIV evolves over time.
“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,” study co-author Dr. Carole McArthur said in a statement, according to CNN.
However, Dr. Anthony Fauci with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases told CNN that the current treatments for HIV are still effective against this new strain.
“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.”
According to the World Health Organization, there were about 37.9 million people living with HIV at the end of 2018. No effective cure currently exists for HIV, according to the Centers for Disease Control, but it can be controlled “with proper medical care.”
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