Medical News

Irish Scientist Discovers New Strain of AIDS Virus

July 9, 2003

This article is part of The Body PRO's archive. Because it contains information that may no longer be accurate, this article should only be considered a historical document.

An Irish researcher has discovered a new strain of HIV that could provide vital clues in the search for an AIDS vaccine. Scientist Grace McCormack, of the National University of Ireland-Maynooth, happened upon the previously unknown virus type while researching blood samples from Malawi dating back to the early years of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s.

"It is very interesting because while we have found people infected with it in the 1980s, we haven't found any examples of it in the 1990s yet," said McCormack. "As a result, it might be a strain of the virus that has failed. Because of that it may give us information on how to defeat the virus," McCormack continued.

"We haven't called it anything yet and we can't name it until we look at the full genome sequence," said McCormack, who worked with the Central Health Laboratory and School of Tropical Medicine on the research. "We've applied for full funding and we hope to have concluded the research in the next three years, if not sooner," she said.

There is hope that the discovery, already the result of three years of research, could assist in the prevention and control of the AIDS epidemic and with the development of a vaccine to combat the deadly disease. There are nine known strains of HIV, and the virus infects 15,000 people a day throughout the world. AIDS has already claimed the lives of 25 million people worldwide and is forecast to kill 80 million by 2010.

The study, "Highly Divergent HIV Type 1 Group M Sequences Evident in Karonga District, Malawi in the Early 1980s," was published in the May edition of AIDS Research and Human Retroviruses (2003;19(5):441-445).

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.


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