Two of four strains of the HIV virus come from gorillas in southwestern Cameroon, revealed an international team of scientists from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Montpellier, the University of Edinburgh, and other institutions. This breakthrough means that researchers now know the origins of all strains of the HIV virus that occur in people.
Groups M and N of the virus were known to have come from chimpanzees in Cameroon. But, the origin of the O and P strains had been unknown until now. HIV-1's Group M is the most widespread and comprises of greatest part of the epidemic with more than 40 million people now infected around the world. Group P has been detected in only two people so far. And Group O has been found in central and western Africa, infecting about 100,000 people.
Principal researcher of the study, Martine Peeters, said, "From this study and others that our team has conducted in the past it has become clear that both chimpanzees and gorillas harbor viruses that are capable of crossing the species barrier to humans and have the potential to cause major disease outbreaks. Understanding emerging disease origins is critical to gauge future human infection risks."
The findings are published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.