A SCIENTIST believes to have traced the origin of AIDS in humans.
Dr. Jacques Pepin of the University of Sherbrooke in Quebec, Canada has written a book about his findings which suggest that a starving World War I soldier forced to hunt chimpanzees for food was the first human patient with AIDS.
The epidemiologist has been working to discover the origins of the deadly viral disease for decades.
Previous studies had confirmed that the simian immunodeficiency virus, found in chimpanzees, was transferred from animals to humans in southeastern Cameroon at the start of the 20th century.
Dr Pepin suggests that Patient Zero was one of the many French, Belgian and British soldiers trapped in the remote forest around Moloundou, Cameroon, in 1916.
Moloundou had been named in previous studies as the possible site of the first HIV infection.
Pepin’s hypothesis is that one of the soldiers killed a chimpanzee and when dissecting the infected animal, spread the infection to his own system through a wound.
After the war, the scientist believes, the soldier returned to Leopoldville and the virus then spread very slowly, initially confined to what was then the capital of the Belgian colony, mainly due to the reuse of needles in hospitals.
This could have led to 500 people being infected in the early 1950s, and sexual transmission accelerating in the 1960s as the population increased with the influx of refugees and immigrants. When a Haitian technical assistant came to Congo after the nation’s independence and contracted the virus, he could have taken it home, where it then spread among gay men.
More than 33 million people have died from AIDS-related diseases since the beginning of the epidemic. At the end of June 2020, 26 million people were accessing antiretroviral therapy.
The scientist has revealed this hypothesis in the second edition of his book The Origin of Aids from Cambridge University Press.
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