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SIV Found in Wild Chimpanzees for the First Time

Study offers 'clear picture of the origin of HIV-1,' authors claim

THURSDAY, May 25 (HealthDay News) -- Simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV), the chimpanzee version of HIV previously found only in captive animals, has now also been found in fecal samples from wild chimpanzees in southern Cameroon, according to a report published online May 25 in Science. The prevalence of the virus is as high as 35 percent and offers a picture of the "seeds of the AIDS pandemic," the authors report.

Beatrice H. Hahn, M.D., from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and colleagues collected 599 fecal specimens at 10 forest sites in southern Cameroon, of which 446 were of chimpanzee origin as determined by amplification of a mitochondrial DNA fragment.

The researchers found that some specimens from the chimpanzee subspecies Pan troglodytes troglodytes had antibodies reactive to HIV-1 proteins and virion RNA. They estimated that the prevalence of SIV ranged from 29 percent to 35 percent at the 10 field sites. Further genetic analysis showed that SIV strains from some of the sites were closely related to the HIV-1 M and N groups.

"The findings presented here, together with prior studies, provide for the first time a clear picture of the origin of HIV-1 and the seeds of the AIDS pandemic," Hahn and colleagues conclude.

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