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Where HIV Comes From?
before March 9, 2006


It was May 1983 when first reports about new pathogenic agent, causing severe distress of human immune system, appeared in press. In 1986 scientists started to identify the virus with "HIV" abbreviation. It turned out later that proper name is HIV-1, because less known HIV-2 has been discovered. HIV-1 is the main agent causing HIV-pandemia.

It was the first time ever virus discovery resulted in such public reaction: scientists have immediately started thorough virus studies and such research projects received significant funding. Thus, very soon the scientists collected more data on HIV than on other viral infections, which were already described. HIV studies promoted discoveries in virology, immunology, epidemiology and molecular biology. Still we do not have a medicine able to cure the patient completely. It's hard to expect effective defence to be developed without reliable information about origin and evolution of this virus. Doctor of Biology A.F. Bobkov, world famous virologist from RAMS Science and Research Centre of Virology, studies HIV virus since 1986 and is ready to share some information.

Human immunodeficiency virus is extremely mutable - scientists have a database with more that 40 thousand of HIV genome variants. Several subtypes appear while comparing these variants. They have no difference in its aggression or infection route, though they allow tracking virus origin and geography of epidemic links. According to observations, a certain viral subtype almost never transforms to another subtype. For example, homosexuals and mainliners of USA and Western Europe are mainly infected with viral subtype B. The "founder" of this group obviously carried this HIV subtype. Viruses, which infest Russian mainliners, differ significantly from HIV subtypes of same risk groups in other countries. Russian citizens, who have been infested through heterosexual relationship, are likely to have one of eight possible viral subtypes, the fact showing their internationalism. As for male homosexuals having sexual contacts with inhabitants of Europe and America, where subtype B is common, they usually catch B subtype. In the Central and Western Africa one can come across all HIV subtypes.

According to the scientists, the mankind may thank apes for the HIV-1. Although they do not have direct evidence, they refer to "the existing examples". There exist numerous ape immunodeficiency viruses causing no AIDS in their naturals hosts, but they kill apes of other species after infesting them. Human HIV-2 virus is allied to one of ape viruses, which was discovered in Africa among smoky mangabey (Cercocebus) monkeys. Mangabeys live in African villages, they communicate with population, play with children. People, who were infected with this virus, had symptoms of HIV-2 virus.

The issue of HIV-1 still remains open. The virus appears to transfer to human organisms from some ape hosts, moreover, taking to consideration HIV variety, it seems to have happened at least three times. AIDS symptoms develop because human being is not a natural host for immunodeficiency virus. But still it is nearly impossible to say what kind of apes has transmitted the virus. Some scientists suggest they were chimpanzees, however, their opponents have two weighty arguments. First, the researches have managed to find only four chimpanzees, which carried the virus, similar to HIV-1. The second reason is that these monkeys are not very friendly towards people, so the way of virus transmission remains obscure. One hypothesis suggests human infesting through monkey blood. Such experiments have been carried out in Africa, while searching for antimalarial vaccine (monkeys do not suffer from malaria). There is a chance of the virus being transmitted to human beings (as well as chimpanzees) from some other African monkey species, possibly extinct. Then this virus has been circulated in African villages for some period of time and then has been detected by scientists.

What will happen to us, when scientists manage to identify this monkey? Mr. Bobkov expects new HIV-1 subtypes or even groups to be discovered. What happened once is likely to happen once again; the virus is able to penetrate the interspecific barrier, and luckily it will be the same virus. No one knows whether even more dangerous unknown diseases are waiting in the jungle. As for HIV that scientists have come across, it will spread quickly until infesting almost all people leading dangerous life. First of all, these are mainliners ignoring safety measures and those heaving non-safe promiscuous sexual relations. With the development of therapy methods, infected people tend to live longer, but are unlikely to be cured completely. Due to its mutability, the virus is likely to produce numerous strains, drug-resistant among them. Thus, regular life remains the only way to protect your life and health.

Tags: HIV Russian medicine    

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