Current Infectious Disease Reports

, Volume 9, Issue 4, pp 338-346

First online:

The origins of HIV and implications for the global epidemic

  • Fran Van Heuverswyn
  • , Martine PeetersAffiliated withUMR145, ‘Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD)’ and University of Montpellier 1 Email author 

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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.