New human HIV strain discovered in France

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

A woman in Paris, France has been found to be infected by a strain of the HIV virus with a lineage that is closer to the Simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) normally found in gorillas than that in chimpanzees. The new strain, which has been designated as P by the University of Rouen and University of Manchester researchers, is the first confirmed human infection of an SIV from a non-Chimpanzee source.

Young chimpanzees
Image: Delphine Bruyere.

"We have identified a new human immunodeficiency virus in a Cameroonian woman. It is closely related to gorilla simian immunodeficiency virus (SIVgor) and shows no evidence of recombination with other HIV-1 lineages. This new virus seems to be the prototype of a new HIV-1 lineage that is distinct from HIV-1 groups M, N and O. We propose to designate it HIV-1 group P," said the researchers.

The 62-year-old woman, originally from Cameroon in Africa and who emigrated to France five years ago, is healthy and shows no sign of AIDS. Her claims of no previous contact with gorillas or with bushmeat suggests human-to-human infection. The prevalence of the new strain is as yet unknown, and researchers are sifting through the woman's contacts for other possible sources of infection.

At the moment, the most likely pathway of infection is of gorilla-to-human, though it cannot be ruled out that this new strain began in chimpanzees before moving to gorillas and humans.