New HIV strain that can beat blood tests 'poses little threat in UK'

A NEW strain of Aids virus that is not always detected by the blood tests used to screen donations to the transfusion service poses little risk to people in Britain, the Department of Health said yesterday.

'People should not be alarmed. We are confident the risk is almost zero,' a department spokesman said. 'We are working with other countries to get information as soon as possible to see how different testing kits perform against this new strain.'

Scientists in France and Belgium have so far detected the mutant strain of HIV in 11 patients and found that several kits, including ones used in Britain, failed to detect antibodies to the virus or gave ambiguous results.

The French health authorities have recalled one blood test and ordered an urgent re-evaluation of others used by their blood transfusion service, as revealed yesterday by the Independent on Sunday.

Health officials in Britain have contacted Murex Diagnostics, the manufacturers of the blood test most commonly used in the UK, to see how to improve the test kit's ability to detect antibodies to the group O strain of HIV, which emerged in the west African state of Cameroon a few years ago.

Officials from Murex flew to Paris two weeks ago to be briefed by Francois Simon, the virologist at the Bichat Claude Bernard Hospital, who identified the new strain in French patients. A spokesman for Murex was unavailable for comment.

Dr Simon said current test kits were very good at detecting antibodies to typical strains of HIV, but were more inaccurate in picking out less-common variants, such as those belonging to group O.

The situation is reminiscent of the decision in 1990 to introduce tests for HIV-2, the second major family of HIVs, as a result of the accidental discovery that a blood donor in Britain was infected with the HIV-2 virus.

Dr Simon said that of the 10 French patients with the group O strain of HIV, nine had lived in Cameroon, where scientists estimated that between 5 and 10 per cent of HIV-positive people are infected with that strain.

The tenth patient was a French woman who worked as a barmaid in a garrison town in the east of France where some of the soldiers may have spent time in Cameroon. He said the risk of a blood donor infected with group O HIV in Britain or France was 'very, very low'.

Professor John Cash, director of the Scottish Blood Transfusion Service, said all potential blood donors were asked whether they had visited Africa or had had sex with someone from that continent. This was the first line of defence against contamination by a mutant strain of HIV.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application Developer

£30000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Service Engineers - Doncaster / Hull

£27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Domestic Service Only Engineers are requ...

Recruitment Genius: Employability / Recruitment Adviser

£23600 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Employability Service withi...

Day In a Page

Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...