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Monday, 11 September, 2000, 14:43 GMT 15:43 UK
Scientists to reveal origin of Aids
Chimpanzee
Scientists believe Aids jumped from chimps to humans
Scientists are set to outline for the first time how the Aids virus began.

Experts are meeting in London to discuss theories on how and when the virus began to infect humans.

Scientists are generally agreed that Aids jumped the species barrier from chimpanzees to humans.

Chimpanzees host a virus called SIV which is regarded as being similar to HIV.

However, scientists are divided on how this might have happened.

They have rejected one theory that the virus jumped from chimpanzees to humans as a result of a botched experiment in the 1950s.

That theory suggested that somehow the virus was included in a polio vaccine developed in an African jungle in 1957.

Some scientists had believed a contaminated batch of the polio vaccine made from infected chimpanzee tissue resulted in the Aids virus jumping the species barrier.

However, others say that while they believe HIV did jump the species barrier they do not believe that this could have happened as a result of a botched experiment.

But at a meeting at the Royal Society on Monday, scientists said there was no truth in this theory.

Discussion

The theory was one of a number being discussed by experts.

The scientists are examining reports from three independent research laboratories into the origin of Aids.

They are expected to outline their conclusions on Monday afternoon.

Another theory is that the Aids virus jumped to humans as a result of a bite or after a hunter became infected while capturing a monkey or ape, or preparing its flesh for eating.

Other explanations for the sudden emergence of Aids centre on deforestation bringing monkeys and apes into greater contact with humans, coupled with political and social upheavals.

There are currently more than 33 million people infected with HIV, 28 million of whom live in the developing world.

Up to 100 million people are projected to become infected with HIV over the next 10 years, 95% of them in developing countries.

Figures suggest that there is a new case of HIV infection every 11 seconds.

Work is ongoing around the world to develop a vaccine but as yet there is no known cure.

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See also:

31 Aug 00 | Health
MP tests Aids vaccine
10 Jul 00 | Health
Aids effect 'like Black Death'
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