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HIV-like virus detected in wild chimpanzee

January 18, 2002 -- An international team of researchers has identified a wild chimpanzee infected with simian immunodeficiency virus (SIVcpz). The identification of the infected animal strengthens the scientific case that wild chimpanzees are the reservoir of SIVcpz, which researchers believe is a relative of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

The research team, which includes Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator George M. Shaw and senior author Beatrice H. Hahn, reported the discovery in the January 18, 2002, issue of the journal Science. Shaw and Hahn are both at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

In 1999, Hahn, Shaw and their colleagues first reported evidence that human HIV-1 most likely arose because of transmission of SIVcpz from the chimpanzee, Pan troglodytes troglodytes, to humans. Their conclusion was based on evidence indicating that six captive chimpanzees were infected with SIVcpz.

Since thousands of captive chimpanzees throughout the world had been screened, and only those six had been found to be positive for SIVcpz, people questioned how the chimpanzee could be the reservoir if all these other animals were negative, said Shaw. The reason we deduced that the chimpanzee was the source was that others considered the animals as all being equivalent. But there are four different subspecies, and we provided evidence that it was Pan troglodytes troglodytes native to west central Africa that was the original source of the disease. However, until now, there had been no evidence for a natural reservoir of SIVcpz in the wild.

In the latest studies, Hahn, Shaw and their colleagues analyzed urine and fecal samples from 58 animals. The animals included those of the subspecies Pan troglodytes verus from the Tai Forest in the Cte dIvoire (Ivory Coast) in West Africa, and those of the subspecies Pan troglodytes sc
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Contact: Jim Keeley
keeleyj@hhmi.org
301-215-8858
Howard Hughes Medical Institute
17-Jan-2002


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