Monday, December 1, 2014

The Origins of HIV

A new study, lead by scientists from Oxford University and University of Leuven has found the origin of the HIV epidemic to be the early 1920’s (with 95% possible dates ranging from 1909-1930) and the city of Kinshasa, (located in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo). The virus was likely spread from Kinshasa, a center of commerce, due to the city having a thriving sex trade, a gender imbalance of two men for each woman due to an influx of laborers, a rapidly growing population, and recycling of needles in clinics (ironically) as part of public campaigns to reduce infections disease. Kinshasa was a center for railroad- and as many as a million people passed through the city in the 1940’s. The epidemic then spread HIV subtype M to Sub-Saharan Africa, passing along the main northern and southern railroad lines to Kisagani and Lubumbashi by 1961.

The researchers reached this conclusion through analysis of HIV’s genetic code, using genetic markers to construct a phylogentic tree using phylogeographic techniques (tracing the contemporary geographic distributions of individuals).

Madeleine Bousquet

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