Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Gorillas and AIDS

Linkhttp://wdin.blogspot.com, http://www.promedmail.org/, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/8175379.stm, http://www.nature.com/nm/index.html

News that a newly discovered version of the virus that causes AIDS has cropped up in a woman from Cameroon has hit several new outlets. This is no surprise. They include Wildlife Disease News Digest, Promed Ahead and the BBC web site.

The original article was published in the prestigious journal Nature Medicine. Lead author Jean-Christophe Plantier and his eight colleagues describe the finding of SIV [simian immunodeficiency virus] in a gorilla. They state that the virus
"is closely related to gorilla simian immunodeficiency virus (SIVgor) and shows no evidence of recombination with other HIV-1 lineages. This new virus seems to be the prototype of a new HIV-1 lineage that is distinct from HIV-1 groups M, N and O. We propose to designate it HIV-1 group P."

It has already been established that the two most important versions of the virus (so far) are HIV1, which crossed into humans from chimpanzees some time in the last 100 years somewhere in the Congo basin and HIV2 which came from a small nondescript monkey called the sooty mangabey, a small, almost uniformly grey monkey whose range is restricted to Upper Guinea in West Africa. In humans these two viruses are genetically less closely related to one another than they are to their original primate sources. The SIV counterparts of these two forms of HIV have been introduced into humans on at least seven different occasions.

That gorilla SIV should have crossed into a human should not surprise anyone who has followed the history of the bushmeat trade. In his 1963 autobiography On Safari Armand Denis published several remarkable photographs of gorillas that had been hunted by large gangs of Ituri hunters deep in the forests of the Congo basin. He had accompanied pygmies on a well-orchestrated hunt in the forest.

However, the Cameronian woman was living in Paris and had never been in contact with bushmeat. The article’s authors suggest that she must have acquired the infection from someone else who was carrying it. While this is the first finding of its kind, it seems likely that others will now be made. The patient was not ill, but that does not mean she will not develop AIDS.

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