Women in Cameroon Found to Have New Gorilla Strain of HIV
A new strain of the virus that causes AIDS has been discovered in a woman from the African nation, Cameroon. This strain differs from the three known strains of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and appears to be closely related to a form of simian virus recently discovered in wild gorillas, researchers reported in Monday’s edition of the journal Nature Medicine.
One of the researchers, Jean-Christophe Plantier of the University of Rouen in France, noted that the finding “highlights the continuing need to watch closely for the emergence of new HIV variants, particularly in western-central Africa.”
According to researchers, the most likely explanation for the new HIV virus strain is gorilla-to human transmission. But they added that they cannot rule out the possibility that the new strain started in chimpanzees and moved into gorillas and then humans, or moved directly from chimpanzees to both gorillas and humans.
“Findings like these remind us that primates continue to transmit viruses to humans just as they did before we knew about AIDS,” said Rowena Johnston, Vice President of research for the Foundation for AIDS in New York City. “HIV continues to broadside us from directions we do not necessarily expect.”
The 62-year-old Cameroon woman tested positive for HIV in 2004, shortly after moving to Paris from Cameroon, according to researchers. She lived near Yaounde, the capital of Cameroon, but said she had no contact with apes or bush meat, a name often given to meat from wild animals in tropical counties. HIV can be passed through blood as people eat bush meat.
Researchers have yet to determine how wide-spread the new HIV strain is. However, the virus’ rapid replication indicates that it has adapted to human cells.