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HIV Finds Its Root in Prehistoric African Monkeys

Update Date: Jan 28, 2013 05:42 AM EST

The origin of HIV or Human Immunodeficiency Virus has been traced back to African monkeys and apes which existed five to 12 million years ago, according to a new research.

The research was conducted by scientists at the University of Washington and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, both in Seattle. The details of the research were published in the journal PLOS Pathogens.

Throughout the world, almost 34 million people are affected by HIV which causes AIDS. This research was able to find the presence a virus similar to that of HIV in ancient monkeys and apes through genetic study.

HIV, which causes AIDS or Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome, is a condition that weakens the body's immune system, thus making it vulnerable to the attack of infectious diseases.

AIDS developed during the 20th century when a virus similar to HIV was transmitted from apes to human beings. In order to have a better understanding of HIV and AIDS, the scientists performed a genetic study of the HIV-like viruses in a wide number of primates like chimps, gorillas, orangutans and macaques.

They found that the genetic evolution of the immune system in monkeys and apes in Africa happened during five and 16 million years ago. The evolution of the immune system in order to combat the infection in primates was also studied.

"Our study reveals that, while primate lentiviruses may have modern consequences for human health, they have ancient origins in our non-human primate relatives," Dr. Michael Emerman of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center was quoted as saying in BBC News.

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