The origin of HIV: still so much garbage out there

While curating Virology News today, I came across another reprocessing of new that I had come across earlier concerning apparent natural protection of some African female sex workers against HIV infection: this was the intriguingly-entitled “African women’s genitals provide clue to HIV prevention“, in what appears to be an online Nigerian newspaper.

This recapitulates, very accurately, the information I reported in Virology News, which was the subject of a news release following the publication in the September 2011 edition of PLoS One of a study entitled “High Level of Soluble HLA-G in the Female Genital Tract of Beninese Commercial Sex Workers Is Associated with HIV-1 Infection”.  The gist of this is that:

“HIV-resistant sex workers in Africa have a weak inflammatory response in their vaginas – a surprise for the researchers, who were expecting the contrary considering the women’s high exposure to the virus.”

This may lend further credence to the observation that progression to AIDS in HIV-infected people is associated with a state of chronic immune activation – and that SIV-infected vervet monkeys do not exhibit such chromic immune activation, and do not progress like humans do.

What is interesting about the Nigerian article, however, is not what it reports – it is the online comments that follow it.  Here is a selection:

“Was HIV realy discovered in Africa ? Forget the western media propaganda . I have believed , for years , that HIV is a laboratory virus designed for genocide in the thick of apartheid inhuman policies in South Africa .”

“Neither did HIV originate  nor was it perculiar to Africa. It was the creation of the Western countries to stsyematically reduce African population. that the subjects of this study were exposed to HIV virus attests to this fact.”

And my personal favourite:

“So you have already swallowed up the white propaganda that the AIDS virus was first discovered in 1981 in a remote area of central Africa in the green monkey!  A fairy tale, which never explains why prior to its first clinical detection among western homosexual men in the late seventies, no case was found in Africans, and no animal or human population died off in Africa, yet the homosexual population of the west was seriously threatened until their protected sex campaign took off.

You must be unaware that about 35 years ago the Soviet KGB told the world the truth about AIDS….

Jakob Segal, a former biology professor at Humboldt University in then-East Germany, proposed that HIV was engineered at a U.S. military laboratory at Fort Detrick, by splicing together two other viruses, Visna and HTLV-1. According to his theory, the new virus, created between 1977 and 1978, was tested on prison inmates who had volunteered for the experiment in exchange for early release. He further suggested that it was through these prisoners, most of who were homosexuals, that the virus was spread to the population at large.”

What is depressing is that there is just one comment saying “…where HIV started is of little significance now. the issue is that our brothers Africans are the ones affected so we must work hard to find the cure and save our brothers.”

What is obvious is that, even in an environment such as one of the most developed nations in Africa, where intelligent science reporting is happening, the public seems to be alarmingly misinformed about the origin of HIV and predisposed to believe racist conspiracy theories that were debunked years ago.

HIV did not come from “green monkeys” and was not discovered in 1981: the virus was described in 1983 and 1984, and HIV entered the  human population in central Africa multiple times, from chimpanzees and possibly also from gorillas, almost certainly via bushmeat – and this happened in the 1930s or even earlier.

HIV could not possibly have resulted  from the splicing together of Visna virus and HTLV-1, as no HIV sequence bears any strong resemblance to either virus – and especially not to both of them in different parts of their genomes, as they would be expected to if they were artificial recombinants.  Moreover, the first HIV that has been reliably dated comes from a sample taken in the Congo in 1959.

All of these facts can be easily discovered by a trawl of either the scientific literature, or a first-level digest of that literature by reputable journalists.  All else is fiction…and malicious fiction at that, whether or not such supposed luminaries as Thabo Mbeki believe it.

12th May 2015

ANOTHER note added in response to Timothy Julian, below, who seems not to understand anything about retrovirus and especially lentivirus evolution.  Here is an unrooted radial relationship diagram (aka “phylogenetic” diagram) depicting whole genome sequence relationships between HIV-1, HIV-2, 2 SIVs, Maedi-Visna ad bovine leukaemia viruses, feline and bovine immunodeficiency and human and simian T-cell lymphotropic viruses.  Done by me today from Genbank sequences, using CLC Genomics Workbench ver 7.

Radial tree for retrovirus complete genome sequences

Radial tree for retrovirus complete genome sequences

What it shows is that:

  • there is a distinctive clustering of HIVs and of SIVs, with MVV as a apparently closer relative than the FIVs, in a cluster of lentiviruses that includes BIV – and I note HIV-1 is more closely related to an SIV than it is to HIV-2, and there are three branches to the H/SIV tree ALL of which are internal to MVV and the FIVs and BIV.
  • the H/STLVs cluster together as relatives, with HTLV-1/2/3 being most closelt related to STLV-1/2/3 – which, seeing as the HTLVs are supposed to have derived from the STLVs, is hardly surprising.
  • BLV is only distantly related to the TLV cluster, as is expected given that it is a leukaemia virus but one of a very different species

If HIV-1 derives from artificial constructs derived from FIVs, which are less closely related to  them than is MVV, then is the same true for the whole primate cluster?  Really?  When it is pretty obvious that they are (a) evolutionarily related most closely to one another, (b) evolutionarily diverged to quite a considerable extent?  So were they all made individually??  Then cleverly given to different bush-dwelling primates in Africa?  How desperately unlikely is that??  You appear not to have heard of teh principle of parsimony, which is that the simplest explanation that covers all of the facts is probably correct – which in this case, is that both HIVs and all of the SIVs have a common evolutionary origin, thousands of years ago – and that all lentiviruses also have a common origin, millions of years ago.

Seriously, Timothy: give it a rest.  You know less than Jon Snow.


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20 Responses to “The origin of HIV: still so much garbage out there”

  1. Chase Says:

    This is a good article. I was wondering how or what debunked the possibility of AIDS being made in America?

    • Ed Rybicki Says:

      I must admit, I was going to delete this…but then I realised that’s why I posted the particular article, so thanks for the opportunity!

      In the first place, there was NEVER the possibility that “AIDS” (you mean HIV) was made in America. While the condition known as AIDS was first described from the USA, the virus was in fact first described from France – and pretty much all in the same year, from the USA and UK as well. Moreover, when people went looking for HIV and related simian immunodeficiency viruses in Africa and elsewhere, it quickly became apparent that:
      1) there was considerably greater viral diversity in Africa than anywhere else in humans
      2) there were a LOT of SIVs in Africa, in a lot of different monkeys – and two of them were most closely related to HIV-1 (from chimps) and HIV-2 (from sooty mangabeys), indicating that is where those viruses came from.

      More molecular archeology followed, and it was shown that archived blood samples from as long ago as 1959 contained HIV-1 (from Kinshasa, DR Congo), indicating it entered humans before then – which was WAY before anyone had discovered retroviruses, let alone the kinds of skills and reagents necessary to deliberately make recombinant retroviruses. It is also obvious from HIV sequence analysis that the viruses are NOT recombinants of anything else – although they do recombine like rabbits with each other.

      Further sequence analysis has shown that HIV has probably been in humans from early in the 20th century, in West Africa, and there was a slow expansion of the number of infected people, before modern transport modalities allowed the explosive spread that was seen from the 1980s.

  2. Tim Julian Says:

    Phylogenically – Visna is the closest to HIV. So by sequenceing they can show HIV came about in the 1930´s but cannot find nature´s source!, hmmmm. Non SIV comes close to Visna. Don´t forget too, that HIV is made up of herpes viruses HHV-5 (CMSV) HHV-8. Definately a man made virus, it doesn´t exist in nature!

    BTW- Visna was found in the 1930´s the same time HIV, supposidly crossed over!

  3. Tim Julian Says:

    BTW- How do you know just by slicing two viruses together, you don´t get this outcome or you don´t get that outcome? Are you just going by what you have read in some text book? Unless you try yourself, you will never know for sure. HTLV-BIV are close. HTLV-1 is 75% monological to HIV-1. HIV is very suspicious, the epicentre of HIV is New York, not Africa, just type it into Google!

    • rybicki Says:

      Sorry – that sort of crap was disproved YEARS ago! I help WRITE text books, so no, I don’t go by what I read in them – I go by the original scientific literature. Which has shown conclusively that HIV’s closest relatives are SIVs; that HIV is NOT a recombinant (deliberate or otherwise) of other retroviruses; that the “epicentre” of HIV is the Democratic Republic of teh Congo.

  4. Timothy Julian Says:

    The epicentre of HIV is New York. Basically if you believe the African origins, 100,000´s or more to the point millions were dying of this virus & no one noticed! Also another point to note with African HIV/AIDS, PCP & KS are virtual absentees (very strange). HIV & MVV are very closely genetically linked.

    If HIV didn´t derive from Visna, it could have come from absolutely any where, it certainly doesn´t have to be an SIV. The last place you go is the main stream media for truth. & lastly how did a hetrosexual STD land in New York´s gay district?

    • rybicki Says:

      What. Utter. And. Complete. GARBAGE!! New York, the epicentre of HIV? Are you dreaming?? There are more people infected with HIV in Johannesburg than in the whole of the USA – and the opportunistic infections are different in Africa because the background microbiota people are exposed to is so different to that in the US.
      Seriously, go do the actual genome comparisons using a decent programme – and in fact, you can even do it online – and you will see there is next to NO similarity between HIV and Maedi-Visna.

      • Timothy Julian Says:

        Genetically but NOT monogically, HIV & MVV are very similar. I have 10 sources for this, all from Chris Jennings, books. He is no conspiracist. These sources are the British Medical Journal et al

        You need to read Chris Jennings, HIV/AIDS in South Africa & House of numbers on youtube (some of the biggest names in HIV) all argue that African HIV figures are grossly over estimated. Surely HIV diseases should be the same from say 81-85 in both the U.S. & Africa before medical advancements in stopping things like PCP. In U.S. the first 159 HIV cases, 40% died from the initial PCP, this should be correlated in African HIV providing Africans are not able to get hold of prophylatic pentamidine. You have read in newspapers that RSA has 20% HIV infection, really? Mathematically, considering how hard is to transmit the virus it is highly improbable. Watch house of numbers on youtube.

        The infectious qualities of MVV & HIV are very similar. BTW no one has stated that it was the slicing of MVV & HTLV-1 that caused HIV. More, MVV & BLV. So in your testament, 100.000´s (millions) of people were dying of HIV in Africa from 1930-78 & no one even noticed. The first documented HIV case in Africa is 1982, 2 Belgium nationals in the Congo.

        Until you can provide scientific evidence that HIV has a primate source you should keep an open mind. The virus could have come from literally any source.

      • rybicki Says:

        I think you have been reading / watching some VERY dodgy stuff: YouTube, as a source of primary scientific information? Really?? Monogically? What does that mean? Morphologically, possibly? In which case ALL lentiviruses are similar – and HIV is, throughout its genome, a lentivirus – and there is NO evidence of it having been spliced together from ANYTHING, let alone MVV and BLV.

        “Until you can provide scientific evidence that HIV has a primate source…”: really?? Doesn’t this do it for you?

      • Timothy Julian Says:

        You would need to do this in a lab put MVV-BLV together to prove either way, no side has ever done this, it would be quite simple, why? BLV & MVV samples would not be hard to get hold of. My source is Chris Jennings, I think he is just about qualified, a PhD in molecular biology at Harvard 1976. His books are compelling.

        Secondly some of your comments are bizarre. For an HIV/AIDS case to be legitimate it HAS to be in a CLUSTER. HIV is ACQUIRED. The isolated cases (1959) that you refer to may be PRIMARY IMMUNODEFICIENCY (PID)
        or CVID´s. As far as we know the British (Gibraltar) sailor has never been confirmed as a valid HIV case. there was no cluster. David Ho, did the blood sample with this case & came back with a 1990, strain. Ho confirmed, that this case was not a legitimate one. There are a couple of AIDS like cases through the 60´s & 70´s, ALL ISOLATED, very probably PID´s or CVID´s, they are rare, but do exist. If you go through the New York cancer registries & look for KS, you can see quite clearly when HIV hit KS, in Africa is not the same as HIV, everyone agrees on that.

        I don´t think you know or have even acknowledged PID´s & CVID´s. Despite all your claims no one has found the zoonotic reservoir for HIV. The HIV gene library at Los Alamos, not all are legitimates!

      • rybicki Says:

        Seriously, Timothy: give it a rest. You know less than Jon Snow.

      • Timothy Julian Says:

        I woudn´t count on that, I think HIV derives from a feline source not from a cattle virus! Although HIV is not FIV. I think you find the going very tough with me. I know some of the best virologists in the business, what many state in public is not what they think in private. There are many strange things with HIV that make it look a “designer” virus. R Gallo´s comments in “Playboy” 1987. Matt Essex, (who some cite as the real creator of HIV), some of his comments are very enlightening too! Gallo & Essex are certainly no conspiracists.

  5. The origin of HIV: still so much garbage out th... Says:

    […] Note added in response to Timothy Julian, who posted responses to the original blog, who seems not to understand anything about retrovirus and especially lentivirus evolution. Here is an unrooted radial relationship diagram (aka “phylogenetic” diagram) depicting whole genome sequence relationships between HIV-1, HIV-2 2 SIVs, Maedi-Visna ad bovine leukaemia viruses, and human and simian T-cell lymphtropic viruses. Done by me today from Genbank sequences, using CLC Genomics Workbench ver 7.  […]

  6. rybicki Says:

    You know, you may even be right about FIV being the progenitor of HIV – but actually, because it may be the ancestor of ALL of the primate immunodeficiency viruses, it having been postulated that a primate ancestor may have been bitten by a big cat with FIV, and then survived to pass it on.

    But that would have happened THOUSANDS of years ago, given that chimpanzees went through a population bottleneck that may have been caused by them acquiring SIV from vervet (aka African green) monkeys.

    But otherwise – I don’t think you know much about viruses, and definitely not much about sequence comparisons or phylogenetic analysis. So forget the name dropping, and give it all a rest.

    • Timothy Julian Says:

      Perhaps not, but I know a man that does. He openly accuses Essex, of creating this virus by accident. Phylogenetic, MVV is the closest. Jennings, gives at least 10 sources. Give Jennings book HIV “FACTS & FICTION” a read. Although he doesn´t think HIV derives from Visna. So he doesn´t place that much importance on “Phylogenically”

      No one believes the green monkey theory & monkey bites man on the arse. The virus would have needed to cross over at least twice. Even if you look at Wiki (the origins of HIV) it doesn´t rule out that this virus came from a feline & not an SIV, “or something close”. Conspiracy means that one side is hiding the truth. Someone knows the true origins of HIV. So how did a hetrosexual disease go to being the “gay plague”? Gallo, points out that he has never known a man to be infected from a woman! You tend to ignore this point.

      PS- Jennings uses the word monological in his books (whole/one). But for you to state that an individual case is HIV without even considering CVID´s & PID´s is incredibly negligent. The UK sailor never even visited Africa in 1959. You can only have AIDS in clusters! Fact over fiction!

  7. rybicki Says:

    “I know a man who does” says it all. The Catholics have a category to describe folk who won’t learn: “invincibly ignorant”. There will be no more correspondence on this matter.

  8. The origin of HIV: still so much garbage out th... Says:

    […] While curating Virology News today, I came across another reprocessing of new that I had come across earlier concerning apparent natural protection of some African female sex workers against HIV in…  […]

  9. Kayemache Jr Says:

    So the special cancer virus program (1962-1978) has nothing to do with the creation of HIV? I mean several scientist stated that there would be a virus that would leave the body immune system useless. Why was Africa and the gay population in American (in Manhattan) affected more than any one else? Are you unwilling to accept the medical experiments that were going on during that time? Calling something a “conspiracy: (a word invented by the CIA), doesn’t end the conversation because you ignore the facts.

    • Ed Rybicki Says:

      Oh, for fuck’s sake!! Please! OK, in simple point-by-point form:

    • the VARIOUS HIVs – different type 1s, type 2 – SEPARATELY entered the human race IN AFRICA over a period of decades, from chimpanzees (several times), gorillas (at least once), and sooty mangabeys (HIV-2)
    • We know this to be true because of exhaustive molecular epidemiological work done by a LOT of people, NOT connected to each other or to any mythical Big Pharma overlord OR a “special cancer programme”.

    • The documented oldest versions of HIV found in humans PREDATE any such “special programme” – in 1959, to be exact – and predate any ability we had as scientists to create molecular clones of viruses.
    • HIV can be shown to resemble extant and varied simian and primate immunodeficiency viruses across its whole genome – and not just part of it, which would be the case if deliberate recombinations were made by ANY technology.

    • Just because you’re paranoid, doesn’t mean anyone was out to get the human race.
      So: kindly take your conspiracy theories, and shove them where they fit best. And stop impugning a LOT of dedicated, honest scientists who have been involved since the early 1980s in characterising a malign bunch of totally natural viruses.

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