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please help settle a bet Dr. Bob (ORIGIN OF AIDS,2009) (CONSPIRACY THEORIES, 2009)
Apr 9, 2009

Hello Dr. Bob, Hope you are doing well and I am a huge fan of the forum. my buddy and I are involved in an ongoing bet on whether the government is using HIV to perpetuate a biological warfare program. Dr., I already know that scientists use labs to feed concentrated HIV antiretrovirals to try to get them to mutate and expose their "weakness" proteins (ie, the part of their DNA that can be exploited and cannot be genetically modified or mutated). But my buddy (who's in med school and should know better) says it can be purposefully mutated to become an airborne pathogen, or at least one that infects more easily through water droplets from sneezes and cannot be detected my current EIAs. I think he's just been reading too many Michael Crichton novels and watching too many House episodes, and he knows I've got a thing about germs and is just trying to scare me. I say scientists cannot change any of HIV's nine or ten genes and still have it be viable to human infection. Just what is science's capability when it comes to altering HIv's genetic identity? He referenced the 2005 3-DCR resistant scare as a "leak" that "accidentally" spread to the public 'prematurely.'He also says it didn't originate from a randy bestial safari hunter screwing a chimp, but rather, was created in a lab as part of our Cold War efforts. Please help settle this nonsense! The loser has to buy dinner. Please put all our minds at ease. Rob

Response from Dr. Frascino

Hi,

Regarding the government using HIV to perpetuate biological warfare, you are correct and your buddy is a conspiracy theory wack-job who will never make it through medical school.

As for HIV originating from a "randy beastial safari hunter screwing a chimp" versus HIV being created in a lab as part of our Cold War efforts, you're both wrong. See below.

Dr. Bob

aids (ORIGIN OF HIV/AIDS) Aug 26, 2008

did aids come from having sex with monkeys?

Response from Dr. Frascino

The origin of HIV/AIDS is now well established. You can read about it in the archives and at many other locations on this and other respectable HIV information sites. For instance, try the NPR: Origin of AIDS Story that can be found at www.thebody.com/content/whatis/art34281.html.

Also see the CNN story below.

Scientists trace AIDS virus origin to 100 years ago CNN.com technology NEW YORK - The AIDS virus has been circulating among people for about 100 years, decades longer than scientists had thought, a new study suggests. Genetic analysis pushes the estimated origin of HIV back to between 1884 and 1924, with a more focused estimate at 1908. Previously, scientists had estimated the origin at around 1930. AIDS wasn't recognized formally until 1981 when it got the attention of public health officials in the United States. The new result is "not a monumental shift, but it means the virus was circulating under our radar even longer than we knew," says Michael Worobey of the University of Arizona, an author of the new work. The results appear in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature. Researchers note that the newly calculated dates fall during the rise of cities in Africa, and they suggest urban development may have promoted HIV's initial establishment and early spread. Scientists say HIV descended from a chimpanzee virus that jumped to humans in Africa, probably when people butchered chimps. Many individuals were probably infected that way, but so few other people caught the virus that it failed to get a lasting foothold, researchers say. But the growth of African cities may have changed that by putting lots of people close together and promoting prostitution, Worobey suggested. "Cities are kind of ideal for a virus like HIV," providing more chances for infected people to pass the virus to others, he said. Perhaps a person infected with the AIDS virus in a rural area went to what is now Kinshasa, Congo, "and now you've got the spark arriving in the tinderbox," Worobey said. Key to the new work was the discovery of an HIV sample that had been taken from a woman in Kinshasa in 1960. It was only the second such sample to be found from before 1976; the other was from 1959, also from Kinshasa. Researchers took advantage of the fact that HIV mutates rapidly. So two strains from a common ancestor quickly become less and less alike in their genetic material over time. That allows scientists to "run the clock backward" by calculating how long it would take for various strains to become as different as they are observed to be. That would indicate when they both sprang from their most recent common ancestor. The new work used genetic data from the two old HIV samples plus more than 100 modern samples to create a family tree going back to these samples' last common ancestor. Researchers got various answers under various approaches for when that ancestor virus appeared, but the 1884-to-1924 bracket is probably the most reliable, Worobey said. The new work is "clearly an improvement" over the previous estimate of around 1930, said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in Bethesda, Md. His institute helped pay for the work. Fauci described the advance as "a fine-tuning." Experts say it's no surprise that HIV circulated in humans for about 70 years before being recognized. An infection usually takes years to produce obvious symptoms, a lag that can mask the role of the virus, and it would have infected relatively few Africans early in its spread, they said.

Dr. Bob

Come on doc, tell us the truth! Apr 3, 2009

Is HIV a scientific experiment gone wrong or a deliberate attempt to wipe out gays and drug users? Cut the crap and tell us the truth!

Hello Conspiracy Theorist,

You want me to cut the crap and tell you the truth as to whether HIV is a scientific experiment gone wrong or a deliberate attempt to wipe out gays and drug users. Hmm . . . are those my two options? If so, the crap-cut truthful answer would be "none of the above!" I realize rational thought is often an enigma to conspiracy theorists, but could you at least give it a try?

The origin of HIV/AIDS is now well established. You can read about it in the archives and at many other locations on this and other respectable HIV information sites. For instance, try the NPR: Origin of AIDS Story that can be found at www.thebody.com/content/whatis/art34281.html.

Also see the CNN story below.

Scientists trace AIDS virus origin to 100 years ago CNN.com technology NEW YORK - The AIDS virus has been circulating among people for about 100 years, decades longer than scientists had thought, a new study suggests. Genetic analysis pushes the estimated origin of HIV back to between 1884 and 1924, with a more focused estimate at 1908. Previously, scientists had estimated the origin at around 1930. AIDS wasn't recognized formally until 1981 when it got the attention of public health officials in the United States. The new result is "not a monumental shift, but it means the virus was circulating under our radar even longer than we knew," says Michael Worobey of the University of Arizona, an author of the new work. The results appear in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature. Researchers note that the newly calculated dates fall during the rise of cities in Africa, and they suggest urban development may have promoted HIV's initial establishment and early spread. Scientists say HIV descended from a chimpanzee virus that jumped to humans in Africa, probably when people butchered chimps. Many individuals were probably infected that way, but so few other people caught the virus that it failed to get a lasting foothold, researchers say. But the growth of African cities may have changed that by putting lots of people close together and promoting prostitution, Worobey suggested. "Cities are kind of ideal for a virus like HIV," providing more chances for infected people to pass the virus to others, he said. Perhaps a person infected with the AIDS virus in a rural area went to what is now Kinshasa, Congo, "and now you've got the spark arriving in the tinderbox," Worobey said. Key to the new work was the discovery of an HIV sample that had been taken from a woman in Kinshasa in 1960. It was only the second such sample to be found from before 1976; the other was from 1959, also from Kinshasa. Researchers took advantage of the fact that HIV mutates rapidly. So two strains from a common ancestor quickly become less and less alike in their genetic material over time. That allows scientists to "run the clock backward" by calculating how long it would take for various strains to become as different as they are observed to be. That would indicate when they both sprang from their most recent common ancestor. The new work used genetic data from the two old HIV samples plus more than 100 modern samples to create a family tree going back to these samples' last common ancestor. Researchers got various answers under various approaches for when that ancestor virus appeared, but the 1884-to-1924 bracket is probably the most reliable, Worobey said. The new work is "clearly an improvement" over the previous estimate of around 1930, said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in Bethesda, Md. His institute helped pay for the work. Fauci described the advance as "a fine-tuning." Experts say it's no surprise that HIV circulated in humans for about 70 years before being recognized. An infection usually takes years to produce obvious symptoms, a lag that can mask the role of the virus, and it would have infected relatively few Africans early in its spread, they said.

Dr. Bob



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