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Where did HIV come from?
      #13443 - 12/10/00 03:48 AM

Sudy: HIV Began in 1930s Africa

By PAUL RECER, AP Science Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) - AIDS evolved from a benign simian infection into a human-killer in
the early 1930s, long before it was recognized as a disease, but it stayed in remote Africa
until jet travel, big cities and the sexual revolution spread it worldwide, a new study suggests.

Researchers measuring the rate of genetic change in HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, found
the current strains originated from a common ancestor that first evolved from a simian virus
in southwest Africa between 1915 and 1941, with 1931 the most likely year.

``It could have been in humans even before that,'' said Tanmoy Bhattachary, a researcher at
the Los Alamos National Laboratory in Los Alamos, N.M. The study appears Friday in the
journal Science.

Bhattachary said the most common form of HIV worldwide
evolved from simian immunodeficiency virus, or SIV, that
was in the chimpanzee. SIV genetically converted to HIV
either while it was in the chimp or after a human contracted

The disease did not become a worldwide menace, he said, until people left the isolated
areas of Africa and carried the virus around the globe.

``It could have evolved in humans and stayed in a very small population, such as a village,''
said Bhattachary. ``That is typically what most new diseases do. They are in an isolated
population and then something happens and it starts spreading all over.''

The findings are consistent with earlier studies that suggested that HIV originated early in this
century and then was spread when Africa became less isolated.

Bhattachary said the date when SIV first evolved to HIV makes it ``very unlikely'' that a
polio vaccination campaign in the late 1950s can be blamed for the rise of AIDS. Some
researchers have suggested that a polio vaccine made using chimpanzee kidney cells could
have transferred HIV into humans between 1957 and 1960.

Although the new research could not eliminate that possibility entirely, Bhattachary said, the
fact that HIV originated before the polio vaccine means ``you can probably discount that

A type of AIDS virus called HIV2, which occurs mostly in Africa, may have originated from
sooty mangabeys, a type of African monkey, the study says.

But HIV1, the virus that has caused a pandemic, came from the chimpanzee, a primate more
closely related to humans.

A form of HIV1 called Group M is the major virus spreading throughout the world. It has
infected about 50 million people and killed 16 million. Bhattachary said Group M may have
crossed over from chimp to humans only once, or evolved from SIV in only one patient.

``Our study shows that the M group had a single origin,'' he said. ``It could have come from
one animal or from one human.''

Other forms of HIV, he said, had ``multi-introductions.''

The most common form HIV in the United States, called subgroup B, first evolved between
1960 and 1971, with 1967 being the most likely year, said Bhattachary.

Clinical symptoms of what later became known as AIDS were reported in the United States
in the late 1970s. AIDS was formally diagnosed and named in 1981. The HIV1 virus was
isolated and confirmed in 1983.

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