Origins of HIV traced to chimpanzees in Cameroon

Simon Collins, HIV i-Base

In an oral presentation on the origins of HIV, Paul Sharp, from Nottingham University, presented evidence tracing the origin of transmission to a troop of chimpanzees living in a remote corner of Cameroon, near the border of Gabon and the Congo Republic, in West Central Africa.

The researchers collected and ran molecular sequencing on samples from dried mounds of chimpanzee faeces to find the earliest evidence of simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) that most closely resembled the earliest known sample of HIV. The human sample dates to 1959 and was found in serum from a patient in Kinshasa.

Because the SIVcpz strains showed a local phylogeographic clustering, they were able to trace the origins of the pandemic to distinct, geographic chimpanzee communities. Isolating the original reservoir of HIV meant examining molecular structure of more than 30 species of primates.

This presentation is one of many available online as a webcast and podcast form the conference website (plenary session, Tuesday 7 February).


Sharp P. Where AIDS came from. 13th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections. Plenary session Tuesday 7 February. Abstract 70.

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