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Medical News

Study Dates HIV Ancestor to at Least 32,000 Years Ago

September 28, 2010

New research suggests that the simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) lineage was already circulating in monkeys and apes at least 32,000 years ago. During the millennia since, humans would have been exposed to it countless times as they butchered monkeys for food. However, only between the 1800s and 1959 did a human infection from a chimpanzee virus spread widely enough to eventually evolve into the present HIV epidemic.

Previously, it had been thought SIV was a much younger virus, perhaps only a few hundred years old. In the current study, researchers examined SIV in monkey species that had developed in isolation on Bioko, a land mass that was separated from West Africa some 10,000 years ago as sea levels rose.

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