Researchers at Abbot Laboratories have identified a new subtype of HIV, the virus which was first collected nearly forty years ago has been identified as HIV-1 Group M Subtype L.

The Abbott researchers said the new subtype, subtype L, was first collected in the in the Democratic Republic of Congo in the 1980s. A second sample was later discovered in the 1990s in the same region. It was only with a third sample collected in 2001, however, that the team was able to definitively identify the new subtype.

Subtype L belongs to HIV-1 Group M which is the most common HIV strain out there today, so scientists are hopeful that it will be sensitive to existing treatments although more research is needed on how this specific subtype will affect the body and which treatments will be most effective.

Identification of this new HIV subtype is a reminder that HIV is constantly evolving, and that as the virus evolves so must our testing methods and treatments. Both testing assays & kits, and treatments, must now be tested with Subtype L to ensure accurate detection and effective viral suppression.

Mary Rodgers, a principal scientist at Abbott whose team published their findings on Wednesday in the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes, said there was no reason for the public to be excessively concerned about the newly discovered HIV subtype, which they believe to be extremely rare.

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