An international team of scientists discovered that half of the human HIV virus came from gorillas. Two out of the four groups known to man of the human HIV virus that causes AIDS originated in the gorilla populations in western Africa.
HIV-1 is the main type of human immunodeficiency virus and it made up of four groups. Each of these groups is the result of a separate cross-species leap of the virus to humans from apes.
It was discovered that two of those groups originated in Cameroon’s gorillas and it was transmitted to humans through the consumption of bush meat.
The researchers also believe that the virus did not jump straight from animals to humans and that it went through several changes.
The first HIV strain that previous research has identified is the HIV-1 strain, group M. This particular strain comes from chimpanzees in Southern Cameroon and it has infected around 40 million of people around the world. HIV-1, group M is responsible for the initiation of the AIDS pandemic.
Another HIV strain is called group N and it has been found in very few humans and is geographically limited.
But new research has found that the remaining two strains, P and O, half of the human HIV virus comes from gorillas in Southern Cameroon.
Martine Peeters, virologist of the University of Montpellier in France said that following the findings of the study, it is safe to say that both chimps and gorillas can harbor viruses that are capable of infecting humans by crossing the species barrier and causing large disease outbreaks.
It was also revealed that group O most likely emerged at the beginning of the 20th century, while group P started spreading later in the 20th century.
The vast majority of scientists agree that all four groups of the human HIV-1 virus began as the simian immunodeficiency viruses (SIV). In 2006, Peeters and her colleagues discovered the first instance of SIV to infect gorillas.
Unlike the human virus that was derived from the chimpanzee one and caused the AIDS pandemic all over the world, the P and O groups have remained for the most part in Cameroon.