New study revealed AIDS pandemic origin was in Kinshasa in 1920s

new-study-revealed-aids-pandemic-origin-was-in-kinshasa-in-1920s

An international team, led by Oxford University and University of Leuven scientists has reconstructed the genetic history of the HIV-1 group M pandemic and concluded that it originated in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo.

The team'ss analysis suggests that the common ancestor of group M is highly likely to have emerged in Kinshasa around 1920 (with 95% of estimated dates between 1909 and 1930). Between the 1920s and 1950s, combination of population growth, sex and railway links allowed HIV to spread from Kinshasa across the globe.

Scientists used the latest phylogeographic techniques, which enable them to statistically estimate where and when the HIV pandemic originated. Location and dating estimates were validated using the earliest HIV-1 archival sample from Kinshasa.

Overcrowded train in Kinshasa (Credit: ONATRA)

By the end of 1940s over one million people were traveling through Kinshasa on the railways each year. Based on genetic data, scientists think it is likely that the social changes around the independence in 1960 saw the virus ‘break out’ from small groups of infected people to infect the wider population and eventually the world.

HIV is believed to have been transmitted from primates and apes to humans at least 13 times but only one of these transmission events has led to a human pandemic. It was only with the event that led to HIV-1 group M that a pandemic occurred.

Scientists believe there was only a small ‘window’ during the Belgian colonial era for this particular strain of HIV to emerge and spread into a pandemic. The railways enabled the virus to spread vast distances across Africa and beyond, resulting in almost 75 million infections to date.

A report of the research, entitled 'The early spread and epidemic ignition of HIV-1 in human populations', was published in the journal Science.

Featured image: Aerial view of Kinshasa's railway station in 1955 (Credit: Atlas du Congo Belge et du Ruanda-Urundi, Gaston Derkinderen, Les Transport, Elsevier)

If you value what we do here, open your ad-free account and support our journalism.

Share:

Producing content you read on this website takes a lot of time, effort, and hard work. If you value what we do here, select the level of your support and register your account.

Your support makes this project fully self-sustainable and keeps us independent and focused on the content we love to create and share.

All our supporters can browse the website without ads, allowing much faster speeds and a clean interface. Your comments will be instantly approved and you’ll have a direct line of communication with us from within your account dashboard. You can suggest new features and apps and you’ll be able to use them before they go live.

You can choose the level of your support.

Stay kind, vigilant and ready!

$5 /month

  • Ad-free account
  • Instant comments
  • Direct communication
  • New features and apps suggestions
  • Early access to new apps and features

$50 /year

$10 /month

  • Ad-free account
  • Instant comments
  • Direct communication
  • New features and apps suggestions
  • Early access to new apps and features

$100 /year

$25 /month

  • Ad-free account
  • Instant comments
  • Direct communication
  • New features and apps suggestions
  • Early access to new apps and features

$200 /year

You can also support us by sending us a one-off payment using PayPal:

3 Comments

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published.