November 5, 2007
The Washington Post on Monday examined reaction to a recent study that found that HIV likely arrived in the U.S. from Haiti about a decade earlier than previously believed (Stein, Washington Post, 11/5). The study, published last week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that the most widespread HIV subtype outside Africa likely emerged in Haiti in the 1960s and arrived in the U.S. a few years later.
For the study, Michael Worobey, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Arizona, and colleagues analyzed five blood samples collected in 1982 and 1983 from Haitian HIV/AIDS patients in Miami that had been frozen and stored by CDC. In addition, the researches examined genetic data from 117 early HIV/AIDS patients worldwide. The researchers examined two viral genes and compared their sequences with viruses found worldwide, using HIV samples from Central Africa considered to be some of the earliest forms of HIV as a baseline. The researchers then constructed a timeline of HIV development by measuring how much the genes in recent blood samples differed from early samples.
According to the study, samples from Haitians were genetically the most similar to the African virus, indicating the Haitian viruses were among the earliest to branch off. The researchers found a 99.7% certainty that HIV subtype B originated in Haiti, Worobey said. The mutation timeline of the virus presented in the study places the virus in the U.S. about 12 years before the disease was recognized by scientists in 1981 (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 10/31).
According to the Post, the study's "new insights" into the genetic variability of HIV could assist in the "long-frustrated" efforts to develop an effective vaccine for the virus. "What this might tell us is how the virus might evolve molecularly," Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said, adding, "That might have an impact on the virus that you put in your vaccines. So this not only has historical value but practical implications for vaccine design."
Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, search the archives, or sign up for email delivery at www.kaisernetwork.org/dailyreports/hiv. The Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of the Kaiser Family Foundation, by The Advisory Board Company. © 2007 by The Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.
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