Aids Charity Hails HIV Research 'Milestone'
Britain's biggest Aids charity yesterday hailed the discovery that chimpanzees were the original source of HIV as a scientific milestone.
Mr Andrew Ridley, director of operations at the Terrence Higgins Trust, said: "This is one of the most important developments in the history of HIV research."
Experts believe that because chimpanzees are genetically almost identical to humans, the breakthrough might help in the search for a vaccine against the Aids virus.
An international team of American and British scientists traced the virus that has infected more than 30 million people worldwide to a sub-species of the chimpanzee in west Africa.
HIV is thought to have been introduced to humans through the practice of hunting chimpanzees for meat, which might have resulted in exposure to infected blood.
The virus does not cause Aids-like symptoms in chimpanzees, raising the question of how apes protect themselves against it.
Mr Ridley said: "We know now that research into the immune systems of chimpanzees may well help us find the keys to unlock the door to the control of HIV in humans. …