HIV-2 First Jumped to Humans in 1940; Spread During War in Guinea-Bissau, Study Says
HIV-2, a less common type of HIV found mostly in West Africa, jumped from animals to humans sometime between 1890 and 1940 and may have spread rapidly among humans through non-sterile injections during Guinea-Bissau's war for independence, according to a study published in Monday's online edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, BBC News reports (BBC News, 5/13). Researchers from Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in Belgium and colleagues analyzed the genetic codes of blood samples of HIV-2 -- which is less readily transmitted and appears to progress to AIDS much more slowly than the more common HIV-1, which has spread worldwide -- and found that the two subtypes that became epidemic first infected humans around 1940 and 1945. HIV-2 may have crossed over from sooty mangabey monkeys to humans through bushmeat slaughtering or hunting, the same process thought to have caused HIV-1 to jump from primates to humans, according to study coauthor Anne-Mieke Vandamme (McCook, Reuters Health, 5/12). The researchers also conducted a detailed study of how HIV-2 spread in Guinea-Bissau, the country in which the infection first appeared among humans (BBC News, 5/13). A sharp increase in HIV-2 prevalence in the country coincided with Guinea-Bissau's war for independence between 1963 and 1974 (AP/Las Vegas Sun, 5/12). Portuguese soldiers who fought in the war were the first Europeans to contract the disease, according to BBC News (BBC News, 5/13). According to Vandamme, HIV-2 infection has been epidemic in Guinea-Bissau since 1970. "Since 1970, it is still epidemic up to the time of sampling of the sequences used in the analysis, which is 1991," she said (Reuters Health, 5/12).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.