Ancestor of HIV in primates may be surprisingly young

May 01, 2009

The ancestors of the simian immunodeficiency viruses (SIVs) that jumped from chimpanzees and monkeys, and ignited the HIV/AIDS pandemic in humans, have been dated to just a few centuries ago. These ages are substantially younger than previous estimates, according to a new study from The University of Arizona in Tucson, published May 1st in the open-access journal PLoS Computational Biology.

SIV has crossed over from and sooty mangabeys to humans at least eleven times, giving rise to several HIV lineages. Although HIV is a virulent pathogen in humans, SIV rarely causes disease in these species or the dozens of other African primate species it naturally infects. That these non-human primates typically remain unaffected after virus exposure has led to the hypothesis that there had been millions of years of coevolution between SIVs and their primate hosts.

The researchers, Joel Wertheim and Dr. Michael Worobey, estimated a rate of virus evolution using viral genetic sequences that had been isolated from infected humans, chimpanzees, and sooty mangabeys between 1975 and 2005. They inferred that the viruses currently circulating in sooty mangabeys and in chimpanzees evolved from ancestors dating to 1809 (1729) and 1492 (1266), respectively.

Surprisingly, the independently estimated 'molecular clock' of the monkey viruses was virtually identical to the famously swift rate at which mutations accumulate in HIV genomes.

The authors note that unaccounted-for biases could be masking a deeper age of SIV. They suggest that if these biases do exist, their causes need to be investigated because they might also affect the ability to properly estimate the age of HIV and other viruses.

The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

More information: Wertheim JO, Worobey M (2009) Dating the Age of the SIV Lineages That Gave Rise to HIV-1 and HIV-2. PLoS Comput Biol 5(5): e1000377. doi:10.1371/journal.pcbi.1000377, dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pcbi.1000377

Source: Public Library of Science (news : web)

Explore further: New York confirms first Ebola case

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

AIDS resistance secret may be in blood

Feb 12, 2007

U.S. scientists say the absence of a specific marker in the blood and tissues of certain monkeys might be part of the key to understanding AIDS resistance.

New insights into vaccination for HIV

Jan 25, 2008

A group of Australian researchers at the Universities of Melbourne and New South Wales have developed new tools and paradigms to understand immune evasion from HIV. The study, published Friday, January 25 in PLoS Pathogens, shows ...

Recommended for you

Obese British man in court fight for surgery

Jul 11, 2011

A British man weighing 22 stone (139 kilograms, 306 pounds) launched a court appeal Monday against a decision to refuse him state-funded obesity surgery because he is not fat enough.

2008 crisis spurred rise in suicides in Europe

Jul 08, 2011

The financial crisis that began to hit Europe in mid-2008 reversed a steady, years-long fall in suicides among people of working age, according to a letter published on Friday by The Lancet.

New food labels dished up to keep Europe healthy

Jul 06, 2011

A groundbreaking deal on compulsory new food labels Wednesday is set to give Europeans clear information on the nutritional and energy content of products, as well as country of origin.

Overweight men have poorer sperm count

Jul 04, 2011

Overweight or obese men, like their female counterparts, have a lower chance of becoming a parent, according to a comparison of sperm quality presented at a European fertility meeting Monday.

User comments : 0