The evolution of resistance to AIDS
Where did HIV come from, how did chimpanzees acquire this virus in the wild, and why don’t they develop AIDS as frequently as humans do? These questions are the subject of one of the lines of research in the Department of Virology at BPRC. This type of research does not require studies with chimpanzees themselves.
French, American and UK teams have provided much of the data and basis for the origin of HIV-1 from SIVcpz, the AIDS virus in chimpanzees, by collecting faecal and urine samples from the forest floor in Central Africa. This paper reviews the different transmission events in how chimpanzees became infected and how these infections may have given rise to two groups of HIV-1 in humans, termed “M” and “N”.
Resistance to the development of AIDS is acquired by natural selection. A number of genes have been identified in humans which influence susceptibility or resistance to AIDS. Studies are on-going to identify the mechanisms by which chimpanzees have acquired to resist the pathogenic effects of viruses such as SIVcpz and which genes have been selected over the generations that they have been confronted with HIV-like viruses.