HIV Arrived to US from Haiti and Not Africa

Oct 30, 2007
A new research, performed by a team, led by Michael Worobey, an assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at The University of Arizona in Tucson, and published in the Early Online issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, states that the deadly HIV virus that causes AIDS, presumably came into United States from Haiti somewhere around 1969, which is, in fact, a decade earlier than the majority of scientists believed.

The new study is entitled "The emergence of HIV/AIDS in the Americas and beyond".

"Our results show that the strain of virus that spawned the US AIDS epidemic probably arrived in or around 1969. That is earlier than a lot of people had imagined," outlined Michael Worobey in his statement.

He added that Haiti served as the stepping stone that the virus took after leaving central Africa. Afterwards the virus began spreading worldwide. When HIV arrived to the US, it simply exploded around the world.

Scientists discovered that one common ancestor led to a huge number of HIV/AIDS strains in the United States.

The work of Worobey and his colleagues states that the strain that arrived to the United States in 1969 was HIV-1 group M subtype B. It was the first human immunodeficiency virus ever discovered. It is worth mentioning that this strain prevails among the AIDS strains that are found in majority of countries located outside of sub-Saharan Africa. Almost all of the strains came from one that arrived from Haiti.

Together with his colleagues Worobey analyzed the genes from stored blood samples, gathered from five patients with AIDS, in order to identify the date HIV arrived in the United States.

It's worth noting that all the patients had emigrated from Haiti not so long ago. After analyzing the current samples and samples collected from 117 AIDS patients from around the world, infected with subtype B, scientists were able to build a family tree of HIV genes.

First Worobey and his colleagues analyzed the gene sequences. Afterwards researchers used Bayesian statistics for sifting through all possible HIV trees. In such a way they tried to find those that were closer to the sequences they found.

The probability that HIV arrived from Africa directly to the United States was 0.003 percent. Scientists believe that the most likely the route of the virus was Africa to Haiti to US. The probability of such was 99.8 percent.

It is interesting to note that scientists also discovered, through gene sequence analysis, that the majority of viruses in the United States may have one ancestor, presumably the one that entered the US from Haiti somewhere around 1969.

The team found that there is a great genetic diversity of the subtype B virus in Haiti, even greater than in the United States, Australia, Europe and other countries. According to the researchers, the analysis and establishment of the genetic diversity of HIV within the subtype B could lead to the development of vaccines against the virus for use in Haiti.

Scientists say that the variety of the virus in Haiti is due to the fact that it has lived there longer.

By using older blood samples from their archive, Worobey and his team look forward to trace the HIV ancestry back even further.

Healthy Life Spot


Jan 15, 2008 09:11 PM » posted by: TRUTHFULLY FRIEND


Nov 08, 2007 09:11 PM » posted by: Stanley Lucas
The Association of Haitian Physicians Abroad (AMHE) responds to Worobey study, November 7, 2006
The Association of Haitian Physicians Abroad (Association des Médecins Haitiens à 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.

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