Chimps get AIDS too

31 July 2009

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Category: Research & medical benefits

how–stethoscope.jpgScientists have discovered that the natural hosts of a strain of SIV develop AIDS when infected. This overturns a longstanding belief that such viruses had no effect on non-human primates. The subspecies of chimpanzee concerned were studied in their natural habitat over nine years in Gombe National Park in Tanzania.

The SIV strain, called SIVcpz, is a direct ancestor of HIV-1, responsible for human infection. The team found that the chimpanzees infected with SIVcpz developed AIDS in the same way humans do after infection with HIV.

Both SIVcpz and HIV target immune cells called CD4+ T-lymphocyte cells and over time their numbers dramatically reduce. This weakens the immune system, until it is so weak the human or chimpanzee is classified as having AIDS.

Because SIVcpz works by exactly the same mechanism as HIV in humans, it is hoped that further study of the virus will lead to a better understanding of the disease. Scientists should then be able to find new targets for better treatments and the development of effective vaccines.

Related link: Your health - HIV and AIDS