The epidemic of HIV-1 – which has infected tens of millions of people worldwide – has been traced back to a person who was infected by chimpanzees in south-east Cameroon in the 1930s. The apes are a crucial missing link in the search for the origin of HIV-1, the virus responsible for the most common form of Aids, according to a team of scientists led by researchers at the University of Alabama. Despite the extremely close genetic similarity of chimps and humans, the ape equivalent of HIV – SIV – does not cause an Aids-like illness in chimpanzees. The finding will not only reveal how it came to infect humans – there is already a tell-tale mutation – but could help shed light on how to deal with Aids itself. In the journal Science, Prof Beatrice Hahn, working with a team that included Paul Sharp, from the University of Nottingham, reported finding chimpanzee communities from different areas harbouring variants of SIVcpz. Chimpanzees in one area of south-east Cameroon were found to have viruses most similar to HIV-1. Prof Sharp said: ‘When you consider that HIV-1 probably originated more than 75 years ago, it is most […]

Read the Full Article