AIDS: the patient zero

 AIDS Disease Congo Haiti HIV Medicine Michael Worobey

The "patient zero" theory when it comes to AIDS seems close to being dismissed. The results of a recent study confirm the suspition that the virus travelled from Congo to Haiti, from Haiti to the USA and from there to Australia, Canada, Europe and Japan, spreading in a geometrical progression throughout the planet.

The conclusion of a study recently published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of USA, conducted by an international team of researchers led by evolutionist biologist Michael Worobey from the University of Arizona, who analysed the HIV-1 group M subtype B, the most widespread and prevailing subtype outside of Sub-Saharan Africa and the first to have been discovered, that, according to some scientists, first appeared in Haiti in the 1960s, brought from Congo, and reached the USA between 1962 and 1972, about a decade earlier than what was originally thought, dismissing the controversial “patient zero” theory.

 AIDS Disease Congo Haiti HIV Medicine Michael Worobey

This study, that shed some light over the gap that existed in the knowledge of the virus' tragectory between its likely date of origin, Africa in the 1930s and its first discovery in Los Angeles in 1981, was based on the analysis of five blood samples harvested in Miami between 1982 and 1983 from AIDS patients from Haiti, which had been frozen and kept by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in the examination of genetic data from 117 of the first HIV patients known all over the world and in the overlapping of this data with the information obtained from the sample took in Central Africa, which are considered the first forms of the disease, and the available data of recent HIV-positive patients.

The researchers came to the conclusion that the virus was carried to Haiti by Haitians returning from a trip to the Republic of Congo in 1960 and that, probably, an unknown immigrant from Haiti arrived in a big city, such as New York or Miami and the virus started travelling through the North-American population and through other nations, causing hundreds of thousands of infections before being discovered. Most of the virus spread all over the world descend from this subtype that emerged in Haiti, with the exception of those found in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Worobey also declared that, aside from being important to "put an end to the discussion" about the Haitian or African origin of the virus in the USA, the identification of the origin of the virus and its genetic variability will contribute to the development of an effective anti-HIV vaccine, accelerate the discovery of a cure and stop future mutations of the virus.

 AIDS Disease Congo Haiti HIV Medicine Michael Worobey

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