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Jul 26, 2016 09:47 AM EDT

Chimp-carried HIV strains can be transferred to humans, study confirms

HIV (Human-immunodeficiency Virus) is a virus that causes AIDS (Acquired immune deficiency syndrome). Immune system is the main target of this disease, thus, making the infected people more vulnerable to diseases and infections. An estimated 1.2 million people in the US were infected but only 1 out of 8 knows is fully aware of this condition.

However, in contrast of today's understanding about the origin of the disease, it does not come from human beings. "Scientists suggest that the chimpanzee form of the immunodeficiency virus called Simian Immunodeficiency Virus (SIV) was potentially transmitted to humans and mutated into HIV," according to a report from Medical News Today.

This hypothesis was proven true through a study conducted by Nebraska Center for Virology led by Qingsheng Li, associate professor of biological sciences. "The question was whether SIV strains that have not been found in humans have the potential cause another HIV-like infection," Li said. "The answer is that, actually they do. They get replicated at a very high level. It's surprising," he added.

The research team used mice that were implanted with human tissues and stem cells. Li told EurekAlert, "Based on our experiments, we clearly see some differences between the strains. That implies that there might be differences in the likelihood of cross-species transmission when a person is exposed to one strain versus another."

With this new discovery, Bill Gates is right when he said, "that nuclear war is no longer the (biggest) threat to our safety, emerging infectious diseases are."

Li and his colleagues reminded the public to be proactive in identifying viruses that comes from animals such as Zika outbreak which was first discovered in a monkey on 1947. According to Zhe Yuan, Li's co-author, "I think this analysis of the disease is very important for public health. We want to explore this platform for evaluating new, emerging infectious disease." 

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