News & CommentAIDS Research

Virus From 1959 Sample Marks Early Years of HIV

Science  06 Feb 1998:
Vol. 279, Issue 5352, pp. 801
DOI: 10.1126/science.279.5352.801

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In the current issue of Nature, researchers report the first solid evidence to support the theory that HIV was lurking in the human population by the 1950s: They have fished out and sequenced fragments of an early HIV-1 genome from a 1959 blood plasma sample. The results, if correct, would make this the earliest confirmed case of HIV infection. Now a comparison of the virus's genome with that of modern HIV strains is providing information on how much the virus has evolved--information that might help researchers design drugs and vaccines. And it may hold clues to how and when HIV jumped the species barrier from monkeys or chimpanzees to humans.