Friday, August 14, 2009

New HIV came from gorillas

A new form of HIV from gorillas has been identified in a woman from Cameroon. The 62-year old woman, who is now living in Paris, appears to have a new human lineage of HIV virus type 1 and is the first definite human infection of HIV-1 from a non-chimpanzee ape source.

Jean-Christophe Plantier, of the University of Rouen in France, and his colleagues found the new virus to be highly similar to gorilla simian immunodeficiency virus but not to have undergone recombination with chimpanzee SIV. They propose the new lineage be labelled P as it is distinct from the currently known types M, O, and N.

“Our findings indicate that gorillas, in addition to chimpanzees, are likely sources of HIV-1,” write the authors in Nature Medicine. “The discovery of this novel HIV-1 lineage highlights the continuing need to watch closely for the emergence of new HIV variants, particularly in western central Africa, the origin of all existing HIV-1 groups.”

The current prevalence of the new HIV in humans is unknown. The researchers say that the woman detailed in the new paper currently shows no signs of AIDS and probably caught the virus from another person as she has not had contact with apes or bushmeat.

Paul Sharp, of the University of Edinburgh, believes the new strain probably transferred from chimpanzees to gorillas before arriving in humans. He also says it will probably not spread widely, which is fortunate as he adds, “the medical implication is that, because this virus is not very closely related to the other three HIV-1 groups, it is not detected by conventional test” (BBC).

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