Emergence of HIV in humans traced to Kinshasa

The Democratic Republic of Congo could have been ground zero for transmission of HIV among humans, research finds

The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) has been transmitted from primates to humans on at least 13 occasions, but only one instance – involving HIV-1 group M – resulted in the human HIV pandemic.

Through genetic analysis of archival HIV samples, researchers believe they have traced this world-changing event to Kinshasa, now the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, in around 1920, where a “perfect storm” of factors led to the emergence of HIV in humans.

Urban growth, strong railway links and changes to the sex trade facilitated the development of a “generalised epidemic with unstoppable momentum that unrolled across sub-Saharan Africa”, says Oliver Pybus, from the University of Oxford, a co-author of the study, which appears in Science



[1] Faria NR, Rambaut A, Suchard MA et al. The early spread and epidemic ignition of HIV-1 in human populations. Science 2014:346:56-61. doi:10.1126/science.1256739

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, 18 October 2014, Vol 293, No 7832;293(7832):DOI:10.1211/PJ.2014.20066757

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