By Fiona MacDonald
A team of scientists led by Oxford University in the UK and the University of Leuven in Belgium has reconstructed the genetic history of the HIV-1 group M pandemic, which is the strain that affects the world today.
The research has revealed that the common ancestor of the group M strain originated in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, between 1909 and 1930, and also explained some of the circumstances that led to it becoming the pandemic that’s now infected almost 75 million people to date. Their research is published in the journal Science.
“Until now most studies have taken a piecemeal approach to HIV’s genetic history, looking at particular HIV genomes in particular locations,” said Oliver Pybus, the senior author of the paper from Oxford University, in a press release.
“For the first time we have analysed all the available evidence using the latest phylogeographic techniques, which enable us to statistically estimate where a virus comes from. This means we can say with a high degree of certainty where and when the HIV pandemic originated.”
Once this origin spot was determined, the scientists were able to compare them to historical data, and confirmed that the spread of HIV-1 from Kinshasa followed a predictable pattern.
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