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‘You are HIV positive’ – is the last thing that anyone would ever want to hear. This deadly disease has taken the lives of many innocent people, and continues to haunt more humans.
Still incurable, Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) has been in the spotlight since the early 1920s. Many claim that it all began in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, better known as Belgian colony of Leopoldville. The place attracted many young men who aimed at making fortunes. This attraction soon became a resource of spreading HIV-1 group M virus, as with people came along railroads and sex workers.
Today, 90% of the infections globally are caused by HIV-1 group M type whereas the rest of the 10% are caused by HIV-1 group O which is originated in West Africa. This pattern suggests that the reason for the spread is not actually the function of the disease itself but the favorable factors that promote it. Nuno Faria at the University of Oxford in UK rightly sums up this suggestion by commenting “Ecological rather than evolutionary factors drove its rapid spread.”
Determined to find its origin, Faria and his colleagues built a family tree of HIV by observing a host of HIV genomes that were collected from approximately 800 HIV infected people from Central Africa. This study led them to conclude that HIV genomes share a common ancestor that lived not too long ago; around 100 years. Their hard work proved fruitful when they successfully established that HIV was originated in no other city than Kinshasa.
However, this is just the first step. Now that we know where the disease originated from, we can hopefully work our way up and find out ways that will deter the spread of this infection. Fingers crossed!