In Washington on March 2, scientist said that two of the four known groups of human AIDS viruses originated from the western lowland gorillas in Cameroon.
On a previous research it was found that groups M and N originated geographically in distinct chimpanzee communities in southern Cameroon while the origins of groups O and P are still undetermined. The virus that cause almost all the cases of AIDS worldwide, called HIV-1, has jumped from animal species to infect humans on at least four separate occasions, generating four HIV-1 lineages specifically groups M, N, O, and P.
The new study, published in the U.S. journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, conducted a comprehensive survey of simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) infection in African gorillas.
The scientists checked out fecal samples from western lowland gorillas, eastern lowland gorillas, and mountain gorillas in Cameroon, Gabon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Uganda for the presence of SIVs that are thought to be the originators of HIV- 1.
They have identified four field sites in southern Cameroon where western lowland gorillas got SIVs.
“Viral sequencing revealed a high degree of genetic diversity among the different gorilla samples,” co-author Professor Beatrice Hahn of Pennsylvania University said in a statement.
“Two of the gorilla virus lineages were particularly closely related to HIV-1 groups O and P. This told us that these two groups originated in western lowland gorillas.”
Martine Peeters of the University of Montpellier in France, who led the study, said the finding is critical assessment to future human infection risks.
“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,” Peeters added.
HIV-1’s four known groups have different effects in humans.
Group M gave rise to the AIDS pandemic, infecting more than 40 million people worldwide by spreading across Africa and throughout the rest of the world.
Groups N and P, at the other extreme, have only been found in a few individuals from Cameroon.
Although group O is not as widespread and rampant as group M, it has nonetheless infected about 100,000 people in west central Africa.
Another virus type, called HIV-2, also causes AIDS, but the virus is common only in West Africa.