Medical device, diagnostics and generic drug maker Abbott /zigman2/quotes/203724446/composite ABT -0.86% said Tuesday a team of scientists has found an unusually high number of people in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) with controlled HIV and said they could be a key to advancing therapies, or even developing a vaccine. The people in question test positive for HIV antibodies, but have low to non-detectable viral load counts, without using antiretroviral treatment, Abbott said in a statement. The findings were published in EbioMedicine, part of the prestigious medical journal The Lancet. They "may help researchers uncover biological trends within this population that could lead to advancements in HIV treatments -- and potentially vaccines," said the statement. Researchers from Abbott, working with Johns Hopkins University, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the University of Missouri-Kansas City and the Université Protestante au Congo found the prevalence of HIV elite controllers was 2.7% to 4.3% in the DRC, compared with 0.1% to 2.0% worldwide. "The finding of a large group of HIV elite controllers in the DRC is significant considering that HIV is a life-long, chronic condition that typically progresses over time," said Tom Quinn, M.D., director of Johns Hopkins Center for Global Health, and chief of the International HIV/AIDS Research Section of the NIAID. "There have been rare instances of the infection not progressing in individuals prior to this study, but this high frequency is unusual and suggests there is something interesting happening at a physiological level in the DRC that's not random." Abbott shares were slightly higher premarket, but have gained 50% in the last 12 months, while the S&P 500 /zigman2/quotes/210599714/realtime SPX -0.21% has gained 26%.