The origin of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is a fascinating bit of epidemiological history. A recent AMA Daily report on the subject:
Research Sheds Light On Early Days Of US AIDS Epidemic
The Washington Post (10/26, Cha) reports, “In a studypublished...in the journal Nature, researchers used genomic sequencing of blood samples...to go back in time and reconstruct the ‘family tree’ of” HIV “in unprecedented detail.” According to the Post, “The findings are stunning, debunking many popular beliefs about the virus’s origins and spread and filling in holes about how it made its way to the” US.
On its website, NBC News (10/26, Fox) reports that the “findings confirm widespread theories that HIV first leapt from apes to humans in Africa around the beginning of the 20th century and circulated in central Africa before hitting the Caribbean in the 1960s.” NBC News adds that “the genetic evidence supports the theory that the virus came from the Caribbean, perhaps Haiti, to New York in 1970.” Then, “from there it spread explosively before being exported to Europe, Australia and Asia.”
The Los Angeles Times (10/26, Netburn) reports in “Science Now” that the study also shows that “Gaetan Dugas – who has been dubbed ‘Patient Zero’ – could not have been the first person in the US to have the virus that causes AIDS.” Rather, the investigators “report that Dugas was one of thousands of people who were infected with the human immunodeficiency virus by the late 1970s, years before it was officially recognized by the medical community in 1981.”
Reuters (10/26) reports that “Dugas was first associated with the epidemic through a study by the” CDC “that connected AIDS to sexual transmission of the disease in a cluster of 40 homosexual men.” In that “study, Dugas was identified as ‘Patient O’ because he was from outside of California, where the outbreak was believed to have started.” The “letter ‘O’ was later mistaken for the number ‘0’ and Dugas eventually became known as ‘Patient Zero,’ meaning the first patient infected in an epidemic.”