Since HIV was discovered in 1981, it has affected about 76 million people and 38 million individuals are living with the virus today. Now, Abbott recently announced new research findings that could help uncover a cure for the debilitating disease. Abbott first started tackling HIV 30 years ago when it launched the first FDA approved HIV test. The company has continuously focused on the disease by establishing its Global Viral Surveillance Program which helped them identify a new strand of HIV in 2019.
Continuing its journey, Abbott has partnered with a team of scientists from the Johns Hopkins University, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the University of Missouri-Kansas City, and the Université Protestante au Congo to study about 10,000 individuals living in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Congolese people living with the disease have tested positive for HIV antibodies, however they display low to non-detectable viral load counts without the use of antiretroviral treatment. Researchers are calling them elite controllers. The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) holds the oldest known strands of HIV. Researchers found that the prevalence of elite controllers was 2.7-4.3% in the DRC and only 0.1-2% worldwide.
Through studying the elite controllers, Abbott looks to discover a cure for the virus. Michael Berg, an Associate Research Fellow in infectious disease research at Abbott and lead author of the study said, “Global surveillance work keeps us ahead of emerging infectious diseases - and in this instance we realized we had found something that could be another step toward unlocking a cure for HIV.”
Abbott's efforts in immunology have allowed researchers to rule out false positives, antiretroviral treatment, and several other factors as causes for 10,457 patients living with non-detectable viral counts from 2017 to 2019. During this research Abbott is using its ARCHITECT® HIV Ag/Ab Combo tests and m 2000™ RealTi me HIV-1 tests. Abbott’s findings were published in EBioMedicine on March 2, leading to collaborations that will search for a cure.
Each step Abbott has taken to study HIV has brought researchers closer to finding a cure. Using these new findings should allow for the study of the oldest strands and a better understanding of how to stop the spread of the disease.