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: Research shows anti-HIV medicines can cause damage to fetal hearts

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

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

New study reveals why some people may be immune to HIV-1

Nov 20, 2014

Doctors have long been mystified as to why HIV-1 rapidly sickens some individuals, while in others the virus has difficulties gaining a foothold. Now, a study of genetic variation in HIV-1 and in the cells ...

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.