Twenty-five years after the first AIDS cases emerged, scientists have confirmed that the HIV virus plaguing humans really did originate in wild chimpanzees, in a corner of Cameroon.
At this point, I’m sure you’ve seen this news, but I think it’s important enough to document here. It’s more than historic interest that makes knowing where the virus comes from – once you understand where it comes from, you’re closer to being able to find, if not a cure, at least a vaccine.
As noted in the article, non-human primates have their own version of HIV, called SIV. In fact, a *IV exists in almost every species – humans are actually an oddity that our *IV doesn’t live in relative, non-fatal harmony with us.
Anyhow, knowing where the disease originates means being able to track the variances between the original version of the disease and the new, infectious one. Being able to track those changes means it will be much more likely to come up with a way to at least block the infection from happening. It’s sort of like reverse engineering the mutation in order to prevent it from happening again, if that makes any sense.
Given how many people are infected with HIV, and that some 25% in the United States who are infected don’t know they’re infected, anything that brings us closer to a vaccine or cure is a good thing needing attention.