Tuesday, November 20, 2007
The origin of HIV in North America has been a hotly contested issue. It's had conspiracy theories (the Nazi's invented it, it was designed by a pharmaceutical company to kill off Africans), African origin theories, biblical theories (Gods punishing homosexuals) and many many others.
Well, it seems we're a significant step closer to actually telling where the heck HIV did come from.
HIV was first formally described around the 1980's, but it was believed that the first cases (Robert R, famously... a possible African-American rent-boy from LA) were around the 1968 mark.
Well, the news is now out. It seems that it was no coincidence that initial 'outbreak' in the USA was among Haitians. Using new mutation analysis techniques, a group from the University of Arizona in Tucson has now identified the path of the virus by analysing a number of old stored samples from that initial outbreak. The current new hypothesis is that the jump from simians to humans occurred around the 1930's, making the 'big' jump from Haiti to the USA around 1969 (give or take a year, apparently). Their paper has a neat little diagram showing where the virus went, how the virus has spread. Infact, their consensus data is pretty convincing, and seems like they have definitively nailed this little link down.
The final implication of all of this is that HIV must have been floating about in the USA for about 10 years before anyone actually clued up that something was up. Furthermore, there is plenty of evidence that there were several good cases in the mainland USA (Los Angeles, Detroit, Chicago, New York etc) for some time before the first case was identified.
What else could we be incubating?