New HIV-1 from gorillas

Nothing wakes me up on a rainy Monday morning like viral nomenclature!

So we have two kinds of HIV. HIV-1 we got from chimpanzees. HIV-2 we got from sooty mangabeys.

HIV-1 is further divided into Group M, N, and O, each resulting from a different zoonotic event from chimpanzees.

Several years ago, we identified SIV in wild gorillas. It groups with HIV-1 Group O.

Scientists have just published their findings from a patient they identified in 2004, who was infected with a 'new' kind of HIV. It clusters closer to SIVgorilla than anything else in a phylogenetic tree.

A new human immunodeficiency virus derived from gorillas

But instead of calling this 'new' variant HIV-3 (1 from chimpanzee, 2 from sooty mangabeys, 3 from gorilla), we are calling it HIV-1 Group P, because SIVgorilla groups with Group O, even though this patients sequences cluster closer to SIVgorilla than Group O clusters to SIVgorilla.


Ha! Ha!

They identified this woman when her initial HIV test was positive, and a subsequent Western Blot yielded odd results-- her antibodies kinda recognized envelope, but not gag. Okay... so they did PCR with several kits to see if they could find viral genomes in her blood. Group M specific PCR reagents couldnt see anything. A nonspecific Group O kit could. Like... a LOT of virus. 25,000 to 200,000 copies per ml. But shes still doing okay-- CD4 T-cell count is fine.

Anyway, no point in freaking out over this 'new' HIV-1. Its just a different HIV-1, and we have lots of different HIV-1s. If allovasudden a ton of people start turning up with this 'new' HIV-1 and dying in a week, thats trouble. But this is just something different, and highlights the necessity of understanding the limitations of clinical tests, and the need to be on the lookout for viruses your tests cant see.


More like this

So no good news, either - so to speak. This variant isn't different enough that it's giving us (you!) a clue about how to fight it?


I have a stupid question. What happens if someone with HIV-1 comes into contact (infection-style I mean) with HIV-2? Do they battle it out? Does one let the other keep its turf? Do they mingle and make HIV-babies?

Told you it was stupid. What do I know about virology? I'm a computer nerd.

so does HIV1-P eventually cause immunodeficiency? I assume they are going to follow this new HIV type and see.


By bonsai4tim (not verified) on 03 Aug 2009 #permalink

Abbie, you sure you don't want to join the clinical side of things?

By Barklikeadog (not verified) on 03 Aug 2009 #permalink


Thing is, well when a gorilla with a smack habit insists you and he share works...


so does HIV1-P eventually cause immunodeficiency? I assume they are going to follow this new HIV type and see.

Given the fact that it was recently found that SIV in Chimpanzees causes immunodeficiency (blogwhoring), it would seem likely to me.

yeah right how convincing that Hahn story was. Someday someone will show us an AIDS like disease in wild SIVcpz infected chimps but this was not it

Hi Abbie,

Can I take it that the gorilla is a reservoir for this newly discovered virus and is not actually affected by it? If so, is it known what confers resistence for the gorilla? This might be useful to know in order to treat future patients.

For example, it is thought that polymorphisms in IRF7 contribute to sooty mangabey resistence to SIV. Paradoxically, it seems that inhibiting the immune response can be protective, as many of the symptoms of infection are host-driven side effects.

Sili-- Probably not... but never say never. Every little bit of 'different' helps.

Jason-- HIV-2 is pretty rare, so dual HIV-1/-2 infections are super rare. It can happen, though, and you have to treat each infection independently-- HIV-2 is naturally resistant to a lot of our drugs. Ignore it, and the patient will develop HIV-2 AIDS, while having low concentrations of HIV-1.

bonsai4tim-- No idea. And we probably never will, if she responds to antiretrovirals. We cant withhold drugs just to satisfy our curiosity :)

Barklikeadog-- Ew. No. I dont like people :P

Kristjan + Rowan-- Gorillas probably got their SIV from chimpanzees just like we did. So it probably does cause AIDS-like illnesses in gorillas. Its a new infection for them, too.

Jasper-- Considering the difficulties involved in studying a potential immunodeficiency in wild primates, I tentatively believe them. Histology is fine. *shrug* Though Id love to hear your alternative interpretation of their data! Not being sarcastic, really!

Unsuprising but interesting, there's only something like 20 documented cases of HIV1-N too, as far as I can remember.

Heard a conference talk a few months back where it was suggested that SIV may only have jumped to chimps from monkeys about 100 years before the jump from chimps to human, and may be causing some disease in chimps too. They were looking at mortality rates of chimps in nature reserves, and a higher proportion of the younger chimps had SIV, especially among the infant mortality cases. Sample numbers were still rather small to make a definite case though.

Hey all! My university is pretty good with journal access. But, the newest Nature and Science papers are not available. I'd so LOVE to read this paper (I'm also in HIV research). So could somebody please email the paper to me? I'd be ever so grateful! Send to

If you look at the distances involved between SIV-Gorilla and HIV-1 groups O and P, and the distances between HIV-1 M group and the closest SIV-CPZ found to date, it is clear that we can't be certain that HIV-1 P came directly from Gorillas to humans. It is also quite possible that chimps gave this virus to both humans and gorillas.

This woman reported no contact with chimps, gorillas or bush meat, so she presumably got the virus from another human. Likewise HIV-1 N group remains very rarely found in humans, and HIV-1 O group has not spread around the world like HIV-1 M group has.

A lot has changed in that region of Africa over the past 70 years. So it is possible that there was a band/tribe of chimps that carried a SIV-CPZ closely related to HIV-1 P, and that band/tribe was killed off 10 or 20 or 50 years ago so we will never be able to find the virus they carried.

Hi! Did the journal state whether or not her elisa came back positive, or does France give out westernblot tests to their public? If so, then America is disgustingly cheap. Paris has a socialist medical care system and they managed to catch this... I guess I can see how an hiv-1 subtype would still be caught even if it is a variant strain from the norm. Send me details please? I'm taking virology next semester and am told that hiv is the hardest area.

(Hey Alyssa! I got your email addy, but I edited out of this comment so you dont get spam/annoying messages :) --Abbie)

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