Consensus amongst scientists about the provenance of HIV and similar viruses might change dramatically since the release of a study published in the PLoS Pathogens journal.
The article, which appeared in the Open Access journal on Jan. 24, was authored by scientists at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centers and states that such viruses may have appeared in "non-human primates" twelve million years ago.
It was previously estimated that HIV and its counterparts appeared on the planet "tens of thousands" of years ago.
Human beings first began contracting HIV-1 - the virus responsible for AIDS - at the turn of the twentieth century, subsequent to multiple transmissions of comparable virus SIVcpz, found in chimpanzees.
"A lot more than 40 non-human primate species in sub-Saharan Africa are contaminated with strains of HIV- linked viruses," said study author and virologist Michael Emerman.
"Due to the fact some of these viruses may have the potential to infect humans as nicely, it is important to know their origins."
Emerman was able to employ a technique that approximates the length of time primates and HIV-esque viruses (known as "lentiviruses") have cohabitated the planet by investigating differentials as regards APOBEC3G, a host immunity gene that spawned into existence due to obstacles experienced by the viral realm during antediluvian times.
The study went on to state that thanks to this "host immunity factor" evolving similarly to a viral gene that defends the virus against APOBEC3G, the primate-lentivirus connection can now be better clocked.
This understanding of lentiviruses is all-too-important for the fight against the AIDS scourge that has affected millions globally since rearing its ugly head in the human population a century ago. Knowledge of virus origin may very well lead to its termination, hopes Emerman and those working toward the end of the infliction as we know it.
According to numbers reported by Statistic Brain (Source: Center for Disease Control and Prevention), as of last February, an estimated 1.2 million people live with AIDS in the U.S. ("estimating" resulting from privacy laws) with there being an onset of 50,000 new cases of infection each year.
More than four thousand of those diagnosed with AIDS are children.