Gorillas are new source of HIV, scientists reveal

Aug 02, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Scientists have discovered that gorillas are a source of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1), having diagnosed a Cameroonian woman living in Paris with a strain that is different to those previously found to cause HIV-1 infections. This is the first human infection of HIV that is clearly linked to gorillas and not chimpanzees.

HIV-1 is responsible for the AIDS pandemic that currently affects 33 million people worldwide. HIV-1 originated as the result of cross-species transmissions of Simian Immunodeficiency Virus (SIV) found in chimpanzees, which is presumed to be a result of people coming into contact with infected bush meat. HIV/AIDS was first recognised by the scientific community in the 1980, while the first introduction into the human population is estimated to have been near the beginning of the twentieth century in the region of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Now a French team, in collaboration with David Robertson and Jonathan Dickerson at The University of Manchester, have found the first definitive transfer of HIV-1 from a non-chimpanzee source, a gorilla. The unusual HIV-1 infection was found in a Cameroonian woman who had moved to Paris. It probably represents a new human lineage (tentatively named group P) that is distinct from those previously identified: group M (responsible for the pandemic), group O and group N (both mainly restricted to Cameroon).

The 62-year-old woman presented with symptoms shortly after she had moved to Paris in 2004. Due to discrepancies in her viral load testing her French doctors investigated and found she was infected with a new strain more closely related to SIV from gorillas than HIV from humans.

The woman is the only human known to be infected with the new HIV-1 strain (RBF168) so far. However, before moving to Paris, she had lived in a semi-urban area of Cameroon and had no contact with gorillas or bush meat. In addition, lab studies of the virus have showed that it can replicate in human cells. As a result the team expect to see this strain elsewhere.

Dr Robertson, from Manchester’s Faculty of Life Sciences, said: “The discovery of this novel HIV-1 lineage highlights the continuing need to monitor closely for the emergence of new HIV variants. This demonstrates that HIV evolution is an ongoing process. The virus can jump from species to species, from primate to primate, and that includes us; pathogens have been with us for millions of years and routinely switch host species.”

He added: “It also highlights how human mobility can rapidly transfer a virus from one geographical location to another as has been dramatically evident with the recent emergence of swine flu.”

The Manchester team contributed the computer/evolutionary analysis to the study, ‘A new human immunodeficiency virus derived from gorillas’, published in the latest Nature Medicine (2 August 2009). The French team are part of a network of laboratories that has been monitoring HIV genetic diversity.

Provided by University of Manchester

Explore further: Bacterial communities of female genital tract have impact on inflammation, HIV risk

Related Stories

Herpes drug inhibits HIV replication, but with a price

Nov 06, 2008

The anti-herpes drug acyclovir can also directly slow down HIV infection by targeting the reverse transcriptase (RT) enzyme, researchers report in this week's JBC. This beneficial effect does pose a risk though, as HIV-in ...

How STDs increase the risk of becoming infected with HIV

Sep 05, 2008

Individuals who have a sexually transmitted disease (e.g., genital herpes, gonorrhea, syphilis, and chlamydia) and women with yeast and bacterial vaginal infections have an increased risk of becoming infected with HIV if ...

Recommended for you

HIV reservoirs remain obstacles to cure

May 19, 2015

Antiretroviral therapy (ART) has proven lifesaving for people infected with HIV; however, the medications are a lifelong necessity for most HIV-infected individuals and present practical, logistical, economic ...

Microclinics help keep Kenyan HIV patients in care

May 18, 2015

A team led by researchers from UC San Francisco, Organic Health Response, and Microclinic International is reporting results of a study that showed significant benefits of microclinics—an innovative intervention ...

'Redesigned' antibodies may control HIV

May 18, 2015

With the help of a computer program called "Rosetta," researchers at Vanderbilt University have "redesigned" an antibody that has increased potency and can neutralize more strains of the AIDS-causing human ...

User comments : 2

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Oigen
1 / 5 (1) Aug 03, 2009
She must have had sex with the gorilla for I doubt she got the phantom HIV from a transfusion of his donated blood. Bah! When is this HIV equals AIDS lunatic fallacy ever going to end?
morilinde
not rated yet Aug 03, 2009
She must have had sex with the gorilla for I doubt she got the phantom HIV from a transfusion of his donated blood. Bah! When is this HIV equals AIDS lunatic fallacy ever going to end?


wow, what an ignorant troll.

you could contract HIV from having a cut or open sore on your body and then encountering infected body fluids without ever having sex or using a needle.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.