News of the WeekVirology

AIDS Virus Traced to Chimp Subspecies

Science  05 Feb 1999:
Vol. 283, Issue 5403, pp. 772-773
DOI: 10.1126/science.283.5403.772

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CHICAGO, ILLINOIS-- Most AIDS researchers have long believed that HIV-1, the main form of the AIDS virus, jumped from chimpanzees into humans, but there have been scant data to support this thesis. Now researchers have pieced together what is being hailed as the best case yet for the chimpanzee connection. The genetic detective work--described in the keynote speech here at the opening of the largest annual AIDS conference held in the United States and published in this week's issue of Nature --indicates that different subspecies of chimps harbor different strains of HIV-like viruses, and that one particular chimp subspecies found in a region that includes Gabon, Cameroon, and Equatorial Guinea is the source of human HIV-1 infections.