There Was No 'Patient Zero' for the AIDS Epidemic

There Was No 'Patient Zero' for the AIDS Epidemic

Subtype B genomes from Haiti were the most diverse of all, the researchers found, and are likely ancestors to U.S. strains. In that study, he was named patient "O" - meaning "Outside California" - which was later misread as a zero, hence his subsequent characterisation as the origin of HIV in the US.

Eight of the men - half in NY and half in Southern California - said they had sex with an unnamed flight attendant.

At the time, he was only known as Case 057, and his name came up several times as researchers conducted their interviews.

That was an unfortunate move.

The researchers also said the person identified as "Patient Zero", as having brought AIDS to North America, was wrongly identified.

The mistaken emphasis placed on Dugas that saw him placed as a key link between the spread of HIV/Aids between the east and west coasts of the USA in the 1984 study, he said, was likely down to Dugas's efforts to help researchers.

"Geographically there is an unmistakable signal that this lineage did diversify in the Caribbean before it moved into the U.S.", Worobey said in a conference call with journalists on Tuesday.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control first labelled Mr. Dugas as Patient O (the letter), for he was a case "Out-of-California". But the phrase stuck thanks to publicity around Randy Shilts's 1987 bestseller And the Band Played On, and further coverage turned Dugas-who died in 1984-into a villainous stereotype in the popular narrative of the disease.

Dugas was placed near the center of this cluster, and identified as patient O for "Outside of California". "This individual was simply one of thousands infected before HIV/Aids was recognised".

The level of genetic diversity, they say, shows that the virus was circulating in the United States for a decade before what eventually became known as Aids was recognised.

Now, a new study exonerates Dugas once and for all.

"What we've done here is tried to get at the origins of the first cases of AIDS that were ever noticed", said Michael Worobey, the evolutionary biologist at the University of Arizona who led the study.

Geneticists believe HIV was first transmitted to a human from a chimpanzee in sub-Saharan Africa, sometime in the early 20th century. From there it spread around the world, and as it did so, its genes changed.

Researchers have figured out how HIV first spread to the United States after genetically sequencing blood samples from people infected by the virus - and found "Patient Zero" was wrongly blamed for the outbreak.

He estimates there were probably 20,000 cases of HIV in North America when reports of patients with a unusual new disease - soon to be called AIDS - first surfaced.

"Nobody should be blamed for the spread of a virus that nobody even knew about", Worobey said.

So Worobey started looking for older samples. With precise historic and genetic analysis, they have shown that the virus spread from the Caribbean to New York City before becoming widespread in the rest of the US.

These sequences bolstered his earlier conclusions, and added some new ones.

Scientists were able to track the evolution of the HIV virus in the tallying the number of mutations in its genome.

An analysis of these genomes suggests that the epidemic was characterised from the beginning by important genetic diversity and that the origins of the strain circulating in the United States from the early 1970s could be traced back to Caribbean countries like Haiti. Over in Haiti, the virus could have easily spread due to unhygienic practices at a plasma bank, which transported clotting factors to NY to treat hemophiliacs.

His findings and those of a U.S. experts who genetically tested decades-old blood samples to map the early spread of HIV in America are published in the journal Nature. "When a tube shows up that has 1978 on it, that means something". So in their study, Worobey manages to finally sequence an HIV genome from Dugas - and "found no evidence that Patient 0 was the first person infected by this lineage", according to the paper. It wasn't the ancestor of the strains that ravaged America, and it wasn't any more closely related to the West Coast strains than those on the East.

For Dan Allman, acting director of the HIV Studies Unit at U of T's Dalla Lana School of Public Health, the story of Dugas also serves as a cautionary tale.

Related Articles

  • Eagles Talk: Dak, Dallas up next after win over Vikings

    Eagles Talk: Dak, Dallas up next after win over Vikings

    The Philadelphia Eagles sit only one game back in the NFC East, also thanks to a rookie in quarterback Carson Wentz . They know Philly can't expect to cloak those issues all season if they want to make a playoff run.

    Lions top Redskins 20-17 on Stafford's TD pass to Boldin

    And for the most part, the defense held their own and kept the Redskins in the game as the offense struggled to score points. At this point, the Lions are getting by on sheer grit and determination, making the key plays they need to at all times.

    Cambiar Investors Lowers stake in Capital One Financial Corp. (COF)

    Zacks Investment Research downgraded Unit Corp. from a "buy" rating to a "hold" rating in a report on Wednesday, September 21st. The share price is now 7.61 percent versus its SMA20, 14.38 percent versus its SMA50, and 29.64 percent versus its SMA200.
  • Solo sailor Guo missing in the Pacific Ocean

    Solo sailor Guo missing in the Pacific Ocean

    Our deepest condolences go out not only to his family and friends but also to his racing team and the sailing community". Chuan's racing boat, the Qingdao China , has an automatic identification system that showed its location, Molle said.
    NXP Semiconductors N.V. (NASDAQ:NXPI) Updated Broker Price Targets

    NXP Semiconductors N.V. (NASDAQ:NXPI) Updated Broker Price Targets

    The business had revenue of $2.37 billion for the quarter, compared to analysts' expectations of $2.35 billion. NXP Semiconductors NV (NASDAQ:NXPI) last announced its quarterly earnings data on Wednesday, July 27th.
    Maryland handles Michigan State 28-17

    Maryland handles Michigan State 28-17

    Maryland defeated Michigan State 28-17 during a game at the Capital One Field in College Park, MD on Saturday, October 22, 2016. Dantonio said it remains undecided who the Spartans will start at quarterback. "I think I skipped the pocket a little too much.
  • Why Brad Pitt's DCFS Investigation Has Reportedly Been Extended

    Whatever the outcome of the investigation , though, Pitt and Jolie still have to separately settle their divorce and custody agreement.

    Cubs' clinched most-viewed LCS game on TV since 2010

    Temperatures will fall through the 40s F with RealFeel® Temperatures dipping close to 40 at times on Tuesday evening in Cleveland. Francona and Cubs skipper Joe Maddon will match wits. "These fans have been unbelievable since the time I got here", Rizzo said.
    Merck Beats Estimates as Sales of Gardasil Vaccine Surge

    Merck Beats Estimates as Sales of Gardasil Vaccine Surge

    The drug is now expected to exceed sales of $3 billion in 2017 and to reach over $8 billion in 2021, with the latest indication. The FDA just yesterday approved two supplemental Biologics License Applications (sBLA) for Keytruda in lung cancer, as well.
  • North Korea nuclear disarmament unlikely: USA intel chief

    "I think the notion of getting the North Koreans to denuclearize is probably a lost cause", said Director of U.S. National Intelligence James Clapper in an interview with the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR).
    Kluber, Perez, Indians beat Cubs 6-0 in World Series opener

    Kluber, Perez, Indians beat Cubs 6-0 in World Series opener

    He said he knows Cubs fans are superstitious but he believes the 23-year-old prediction isn't a jinx, but fate. Lee's former classmate Marcos Meza told WGN-TV that he reconnected with Lee on Facebook in 2009.
    Kerber: Loss unfair on Halep

    Kerber: Loss unfair on Halep

    And while Cibulkova has never lost to Halep on hard court, she wasn't competitive in the only recent match, losing in 18 games. Regardless, Halep acknowledges she will have to produce a far more polished display in order to stand a chance.