Researchers have discovered Simian Immunodeficiency Virus (SIV), which is identical to HIV in humans, among wild gorillas in Africa. Wild chimps with SIVcpz are believed to be source of transmission of this virus in this case. SIV is a retrovirus found in many species of primates. Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is thought to have originated from SIV. Two of the three strains of HIV, discovered so far, are directly linked to the SIV virus and the source of the third HIV strain (variant O), remains to be discovered. Martine Peeters, a virologist at the University of Montpellier in France said that this was the first time that scientists have carried out a survey among wild gorillas to ascertain whether they are infected with SIV. She added that the virus found in gorillas was closely related to HIV-1 and variant O.

SIV do not cause AIDS in their natural hosts, the Sooty Mangeby and the African Green Monkeys, even if the infected hosts carry large viral loads. But they cause an AIDS-like immune deficiency syndrome, known as Super AIDS (SAIDS), when they cross species boundaries and infect monkey species like Rhesus Macaques, which are native to Asia. SIV is transmitted sexually in monkeys and apes, as in the case of humans.

Marine Peeters and her colleagues found SIV in the blood samples of gorilla groups in Africa, which were separated by over 400 miles. This made them to conclude that SIV is endemic in wild gorillas. The findings of this study appear in the journal ‘Nature’.

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