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The origin of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 HIV-1 the retrovirus that is the main cause of AIDS has been a puzzle ever since it was discovered by Barr-Sinoussi and her colleagues in 1983 A chimpanzee named Marilyn that died years ago has helped scientists solve the lingering mystery of the origin of AIDS Researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham said that they have conclusive evidence that the HIV virus has spread on at least three separate occasions from chimpanzees to humans in Africa One of the interspecies transmissions launched the pandemic that now infects about 35 million people worldwide The chimp version of the AIDS virus thought to be the grandfather of HIV is called SIVcpz It is extremely rare among chimps in US lab colonies apparently because they are removed from the wild at a young age and never exposed to the virus sexually Recently scientists from the University reported that they have discovered the origin of HIV-1 the virus responsible for the global AIDS pandemic A subspecies of chimpanzees native to west equatorial Africa has been identified as the original source of the virus Although scientists have long suspected chimps as the source of AIDS the absence of clear evidence prevented them from making the conclusion Dr Beatrice Hahn the leading researcher report was published in a February 1999 issue of the journal Nature At a Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections Dr David Ho and others from the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center at Rockefeller University presented evidence that the virus probably first infected people around 50 years ago HIV-1s origin had been unclear Although most scientists suspected that the virus descended from a primate species only three chimpanzees infected with viruses related to HIV-1 had been documented and one of these viruses correlated only weakly with HIV-1 When Dr Hahn and her collaborators recently identified Marilyn with SIVcpz they decided to use this opportunity to carefully examine
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