For the first time in almost twenty years, a new strain of HIV was discovered and this made several headlines The main concern is what this means for the virus.
So, what does this mean?
HIV has a multitude of different subtypes and, like other viruses, it changes (mutates) over time. This new strain is an important discovery, but it does not signify a new public health threat.
It occurs rarely and can be effectively treated with existing anti-retrovirals. Because anti-retrovirals target characteristics of HIV that are common across all different subtypes, this new finding will not affect treatment and anti-retroviral agents will still be effective as long as drug resistant mutations have not occurred.
The essence of the discovery is that it enhances scientists’ understanding of the complexity of the human immunodeficiency virus and its evolution and adds detail to the already comprehensive viral picture.
Having a thorough understanding of HIV is crucial in ensuring that HIV tests are effectively detecting the virus. Deeper insights could also have a bearing on vaccine development.