Patterico's Pontifications


Scientists Unravel How HIV Came to the US

Filed under: Miscellaneous — DRJ @ 7:40 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

In surprising medical news, a group of scientists have tracked the genetic history of the AIDS virus and shown it traveled from Africa to Haiti and then entered the US around 1969:

“The AIDS virus entered the United States in about 1969 from Haiti, carried most likely by a single infected immigrant who set the stage for it to sweep the world in a tragic epidemic, scientists said on Monday. Michael Worobey, a University of Arizona evolutionary biologist, said the 1969 U.S. entry date is earlier than some experts had believed.

The timeline laid out in the study led by Worobey indicates that HIV infections were occurring in the United States for roughly 12 years before AIDS was first recognized by scientists as a disease in 1981. Many people had died by that point. “It is somehow chilling to know it was probably circulating for so long under our noses,” Worobey said in a telephone interview.

The researchers conducted a genetic analysis of stored blood samples from early AIDS patients to determine when the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) first entered the United States. They found that HIV was brought to Haiti by an infected person from central Africa in about 1966, which matches earlier estimates, and then came to the United States in about 1969.”

The AIDS virus is believed to have entered the human population from central African chimpanzees in about 1930, “probably when people slaughtered infected chimpanzees for meat.” For years, scientists have debated the path the virus took from there. Unlike past theories that were based largely on speculation, the hypothesis that HIV traveled from Africa to Haiti is considered to be 99.8% probable because of the genetic proof:

“The path the virus traveled as it jumped from nation to nation has long been debated by scientists.

The University of Miami’s Dr. Arthur Pitchenik, a co-author of the study, had seen Haitian immigrants in Miami as early as 1979 with a mystery illness that turned out to be AIDS. He knew the government long had stored some of their blood samples. The researchers analyzed samples from five of these Haitian immigrants dating from 1982 and 1983. They also looked at genetic data from 117 more early AIDS patients from around the world.

This genetic analysis allowed the scientists to calibrate the molecular clock of the strain of HIV that has spread most widely, and calculated when it arrived first in Haiti from Africa and then in the United States. The researchers virtually ruled out the possibility that HIV had come directly to the United States from Africa, setting a 99.8 percent probability that Haiti was the steppingstone.

“I think that it gives us more clear insight into the history of it (the AIDS epidemic) and what path the virus took — and hard objective evidence, not just armchair thinking,” Pitchenik said in a telephone interview.”

I know enough about medical research to say that understanding how a disease evolved can provide clues on how to treat and even cure it. That makes this one more piece of the puzzle.


23 Responses to “Scientists Unravel How HIV Came to the US”

  1. fascinating subject. pf course byour comments are vapid

    TCO (3b23ad)

  2. I knew they would try to revise their patient x theory because that one had a homosexual bringing it to the US and they linked all the initial victims to him.

    Unless they are claiming that patient x picked up the disease in Haiti, they will need to show us who had the disease in the US before those who they earlier, scientifically, showed us were linked to paitient x.

    It hurts their feelings even more to admit that it came here via homosexual activity in Africa because they want us to believe that AIDS is a heterosexual disease everywhere else.

    j curtis (8bcca6)

  3. From 1980 to 2005, AIDS killed 550,000 people in the United States. Who knows what new plagues the 3,000 illegal immigrants per day are bringing to America. Let us celebrate open borders!


    Perfect Sense (b6ec8c)

  4. I know enough about medical research to say that understanding how a disease evolved can provide clues on how to treat and even cure it.

    I’m more skeptical. The 1969 case was reported in 1987. And, we’ve known how to prevent it since it first was diagnosed.

    dave (58f834)

  5. I’ve always wondered about the timing of when AIDS entered the United States. Back in 1979, I had a friend from high school — who was only in his late 20s at the time — die suddenly and unexpectedly from a virulent and unusual form of cancer. A few years later, as information about AIDS began to come out, I wondered if my friend (who was gay) had somehow contracted it and died as a result, but his death seem to predate what was then the common wisdom as to when AIDS first entered the US.

    Clearly I haven’t kept up on AIDS reporting if the 1969 date has been known from 20 years (as per dave’s comment). ..bruce..

    bfwebster (2f56b4)

  6. Knowledge always takes a back seat to prejudice and the whims of the elites. Why else is such a disproportionate amount spent on AIDS reaecrh compared to cancer or heart disease?

    The myths regarding AIDS spread by the gay lobby did more to spread the disease than any other plague in the 20th century. Knowing the truth about it will do nothing so long as the gay lobby keeps spreading lies about this plague.

    Thomas Jackson (bf83e0)

  7. The pluage came to europe from the middle east on rats from shits but the fleas were carrying the pluage that rats carred the fleas and that ships carried the rats and what about BIRD FLU wasnt it suppost to be comming on all those migration birds returning from the south afer the vacations?

    krazy kagu (171210)

  8. The myths regarding AIDS spread by the gay lobby did more to spread the disease than any other plague in the 20th century. Knowing the truth about it will do nothing so long as the gay lobby keeps spreading lies about this plague.

    I’m sorry what myths and lies are you talking about? The biggest myth that helped to further the spread of AIDS in N.A. was that it was strictly confined to the gay community. The biggest lie world wide is probably the HIV/AIDS denialist movement and particularily its impact in heavy HIV laden countries like South Africa.

    Bob Loblaw (23d1c4)

  9. The best source on the early AIDS origins is a book called The River. The author had a theory, since disproved, that the origin was the use of an early polio virus vaccine in field trials in Africa. The virus is grown in monkey kidney cells but his theory has since been shown to be wrong when old frozen blood samples were analyzed. The book, however, is extremely well researched and is a good source for the African origin.

    Mike K (6d4fc3)

  10. I should add, for those interested, the reviews of the book on Amazon are almost as interesting as the book. Several are very learned and some are obvious examples of conspiracy theory.

    Mike K (6d4fc3)

  11. The biggest lie world wide is probably … should have stopped there. How about teaching people that AIDS is almost 100% preventable? How about quit vilifying pharmaceutical companies for not supplying free drugs. How about teaching responsibility?

    Bob – Care to explain why we spend more combatting AIDS than we do cancer?

    JD (49efd3)

  12. JD,

    How about teaching people that AIDS is almost 100% preventable?

    That’s exactly my point with the AIDS/HIV denialist movement, particularily in regard to South Africa. Denying sexual transmission or the effectiveness of HIV testing and not teaching the preventative effectiveness of abstinence/the proper use of condoms is absolutely the biggest world wide contributor to the spread of AIDS. The lack of clean needle exchange is likely the biggest contributor to its spread in NA. I suspect at least one of those three would be anathema to you?

    How about quit vilifying pharmaceutical companies for not supplying free drugs.

    I fail to see how that would end the spread of AIDS? I doubt anyone is making the argument that pharmaceutical companies are spreading AIDS by not supplying AIDS sufferers with free drugs?

    Care to explain why we spend more combatting AIDS than we do cancer?

    No. I don’t even know if that’s true. If I had to hazard a guess, I would suspect both utilitarian reasons and a lack of a “preventative” component regarding cancer. Well, that is, other than outright banning smoking. Have you included the money spent by the tobacco industry/lobby in your calculations of the money spent on each disease?

    Bob Loblaw (23d1c4)

  13. Yup, Bob, you guessed it. Clean needle exchanges would not find much support from me. The others, provided that abstinence was taught in conjunction, would be quite helpful. The rest was not really aimed at you as much as the media and the activists who seem to think that if Merck or Pfizer would just send over a few pallets of meds, things would be better.

    JD (49efd3)

  14. Actually Randy Shiltz documented a lot of obstruction by the gay community in the early years of the AIDS epidemic in his book “And the Band Played On”.

    SPQR (6c18fd)

  15. When aids/hiv was first being reported in the early 80s, they were telling people it was caused by an exchange of body fluids. They refused to state what fluids and how they were exchanged. It was ridiculous. And this was the cautionary advice they were giving to hospital personnel.

    dave (34f6d2)

  16. JD,
    Fair enough. I did have to laugh when your post to the needle exchange thread turned up right after I made my post. Life is just full of these amusing coincidences.

    I haven’t read the book, so I’m not sure the form the gay community’s obstruction took. I assume it plays hand in hand with the early portrayal of AIDS as an exclusively gay disease in NA? Were they minimizing the disease to minimize any backlash on their community?
    AIDS in the 80’s did more to organise the gay community and propel their issues into the mainstream than any other issue I can think of. But I lived through those years, and I can’t recall any of their campaigns that actively promoted the transmission of AIDS. Gay community habits and lifestyles, absolutely; but all their efforts as a political community were aimed at minimising further transmission, educating the public about the disease and gaining public sympathy and research dollars.

    Bob Loblaw (23d1c4)

  17. To the contrary, Bob, Shiltz documented early resistance to controls on bathhouses, exclusion from blood donation and other measures that would have minimized transmission during the era when it was largely a disease of the gay community. You should read the book sometime.

    SPQR (6c18fd)

  18. 1969???
    Well, this is another offense that will be marked up for Tricky Dick!

    Another Drew (8018ee)

  19. Thanks SPQR. I’ll keep the book in mind; I’ve certainly heard of it before of course. Unfortunately the list of books I should read has long ago outpaced the speed with which I read them.

    Issues of personal liberty/discrimination butting heads with issues of societal safety. I guess some things never go out of fashion 😉

    Bob Loblaw (23d1c4)

  20. But I lived through those years, and I can’t recall any of their campaigns that actively promoted the transmission of AIDS.

    Then you have amnesia. I moved to SF in August of 1980. The gay community in SF was as obstructionist as one could get.

    dave (34f6d2)

  21. Well Bobby how about the myth that AIDS would quickly spread to the heterosexual community. The gay lobby used this scare tactic to hide the fact the the communities that were the most likely to suffer from AIDS in the 70s were the same as they are today, drug users and homos, not exactly groups to elicit the sympathy or support of the public. But gays refused to close down bath houss, they refused to allow testing for AIDS, they refused to allow patients to know that they might be treated by medical personnel with AIDS or who had treated victims of AIDS.

    In short all the symptons of known disease control and prevention used historically were ignored because of the efforts of the gay lobby.
    So Bobby how long have you been tapping your foot in the men’s room?

    Thomas Jackson (bf83e0)

  22. Let’s add the gay lobby using scare tactics to defeat two propositions on the California ballot. The propositions would have declared AIDS to be a communicable disease: that’s all. But the gay lobby was quite loud in its opposition, claiming that the measure would be used as an excuse to quarantine those with AIDS.

    Steverino (e00589)

  23. The Association of Haitian Physicians Abroad (AMHE) responds to Worobey study, November 7, 2006
    The Association of Haitian Physicians Abroad (Association des MĂŠdecins Haitiens Ă  l’Etranger or AMHE) has reviewed the recent article by Thomas Gilbert and colleagues, reporting a phylogenetic analysis of archival blood samples collected from five early recognized AIDS patients at Jackson Memorial Hospital in 1982-1983.

    The study authors identify these five patients as Haitians who left Haiti after 1975. This article has several important limitations and does not provide any scientific breakthrough. Before a detailed critique of this paper, AMHE would like to point at the following remarks in methodological biases that may explain some of the study findings. First, the bias in selection of early samples of HIV among Haitians is quite obvious. The investigators chose a convenient sample under the unproven assumption that all these Haitian immigrants acquired HIV infection in Haiti. They obviously ignore that the clinical course of these patients perfectly fits the natural history of HIV/AIDS. No culturally-sensitive epidemiological investigation has ever been conducted of these initial Haitian immigrants presenting with HIV infection at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami. Therefore, the assertion that they contracted HIV in Haiti is presumptuous and not based on facts. Moreover, no archival samples from Haiti are included in the phylogenetic analysis and this constitutes a serious flaw. We do not know either how many samples of the pandemic clade B might have come from Haitian subjects, which raises the prospect of misclassification.
    Second, the authors do not adequately report on some of their methods and results. For example, they do not specify clearly the number of sequences for which there was uncertainty as to which subtype they belonged to; neither do they try to replicate their results by sequencing other HIV genes. While computer simulation techniques and phylogenetic analyses are important to our understanding of biological evolution, the application of these methods with such serious methodological limitations does not prove unequivocally the origin of the pandemic clade B subtype in the United States.
    Because these findings lack scientific validation, we need to raise questions about the motives of the authors; their paper not only does not advance our knowledge of the HIV epidemic but it continues with a dangerous precedent of victimizing an ethnic group with flimsy data. Needless to say that such half truths have been very harmful to the country and its people. The hasty classification of Haitians as a group at risk for HIV more than 20 years ago can be considered as a cloud hanging over good scientific practice. It destroyed the tourist industry in Haiti; its citizens have since been suffering from the social stigmata of presumed carriers of dangerous germs even though that classification was finally removed by the CDC.
    We are also afraid that such mishandling of data can have the unintended consequence of the refusal of Haitian patients to participate in research studies at American Universities for the fear that they will be used as guinea pigs in the furtherance of biased scientific protocols and conclusions. That would be the saddest of ironies for we all need good science to help us all against this calamity.
    La Science sans conscience n’est que ruine de l’âme.

    Christian Lauriston, MD
    President of the Central Executive Committee of AMHE.

    Stanley Lucas (7c8b2f)

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