HIV’s Patient Zero Mythology Debunked
New genomic sequencing research shows that the virus has been in America a lot longer than previously thought.
The New York Times:
H.I.V. Arrived In The U.S. Long Before ‘Patient Zero’
In the tortuous mythology of the AIDS epidemic, one legend never seems to die: Patient Zero, a.k.a. Gaétan Dugas, a globe-trotting, sexually insatiable French Canadian flight attendant who supposedly picked up H.I.V. in Haiti or Africa and spread it to dozens, even hundreds, of men before his death in 1984. Mr. Dugas was once blamed for setting off the entire American AIDS epidemic, which traumatized the nation in the 1980s and has since killed more than 500,000 Americans. The New York Post even described him with the headline “The Man Who Gave Us AIDS.” (McNeil, 10/26)
The Washington Post:
Mythology Of ‘Patient Zero’ And How AIDS Virus Traveled To The United States Is All Wrong
In a study published Wednesday in the journal Nature, researchers used genomic sequencing of blood samples from that era to go back in time and reconstruct the “family tree” of the virus in unprecedented detail. The findings are stunning, debunking many popular beliefs about the virus's origins and spread and filling in holes about how it made its way to the United States. (Cha, 10/26)
Los Angeles Times:
How Scientists Proved The Wrong Man Was Blamed For Bringing HIV To The U.S.
Instead, the researchers report that Dugas was one of thousands of people who were infected with the human immunodeficiency virus by the late 1970s, years before it was officially recognized by the medical community in 1981. The genetic analysis also reveals the path taken by the most common strain of the virus after it traveled from the Caribbean to the United States. Upon arriving in New York City around 1970, it circulated and diversified for about five years before being dispersed across the country. (Netburn, 10/26)
'Patient Zero,' Gaetan Dugas, Exonerated By HIV Research
"The virus got to New York City pretty darn early," says evolutionary biologist Michael Worobey, who led the study. "It was really under the radar for a decade or so." (Doucleff, 10/26)