The origins of HIV and implications for the global epidemic
HIV type 1 (HIV-1) and type 2 (HIV-2) are the result of several cross-species transmissions from primates to humans. Recently, the ancestral strains of HIV-1 groups M and N were shown to still persist in today’s wild chimpanzee populations ( Pan troglodytes troglodytes ) in south Cameroon. Lately, HIV-1 group O-related viruses have been identified in western gorillas ( Gorilla gorilla ), called SIVgor, but chimpanzees are most likely the original reservoir of this simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) infection. HIV-2 is the result of at least eight distinct cross-species transmissions of SIV from sooty mangabeys ( Cercocebus atys ) in West Africa. Although the origin of HIV-1 and HIV-2 became clearer, some important questions concerning pathogenicity and epidemic spread of certain HIV/SIV variants need to be further elucidated. Because humans are still exposed to a plethora of primate lentiviruses through hunting and handling of primate bushmeat, the possibility of additional zoonotic transfers of primate lentiviruses from other primates must be considered.