Genetic study tracks AIDS virus journey to US

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New York, Oct 31 (UNI) The United States' scientists have tracked the journey of deadly AIDS virus to the country, revealing that it arrived in the country from Africa via Haiti in 1960s .

A genetic analysis of 25-year-old frozen blood samples has outlined a new map of the AIDS virus journey out of Africa, showing that today's most widespread variety of HIV -- subtype B first emerged in Haiti in the 1960s and arrived in the United States a few years later.

The author of the study and an evolutionary biologist at the University of Arizona, Michael Worobey analysed five frozen blood samples collected in 1982 and 1983 from Haitian AIDS patients in Miami.

Mr Worobey and his colleagues compared the sequences of the two viral genes with viruses from around the world.

As a baseline, they used virus samples from Central Africa that are considered some of the earliest forms of the HIV.

The team found that the Haitian samples were genetically the most closely related to the African virus, indicating that they were among the earliest to branch off.

Mr Worobey concluded that the virus was brought to Haiti by workers who had gone to the Democratic Republic of Congo, formerly known as Zaire, after its independence in 1960. The virus appears to have been carried to the United States by Haitian immigrants between 1966 and 1972, according to the mutation timeline.

Researchers have debated for years whether the US epidemic came directly from Africa or through Haiti.

Dr Michael Gottlieb, one of the discoverers of acquired immune deficiency syndrome, said the analysis placed the virus in the United States nearly a decade earlier than previously believed, Los Angeles Times reported.

The analysis, published on Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, focused on a variety of HIV known as subtype B, the most prevalent form in most countries outside Africa.

UNI

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