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HIV came to NYC at least a decade before virus ID’d

DNA analysis of early viral strains tracks U.S. debut to early ’70s

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1:06pm, October 26, 2016
HIV molecule

GOING VIRAL The HIV virus’s path to the United States went through the Caribbean, new genetic analysis shows. The virus (yellow, shown infecting a T cell, blue) hit American shores in about 1971, arriving in New York City first and then spreading across the country.

A genetic study of HIV viruses from the 1970s may finally clear the name of a man long identified as the source of the AIDS epidemic in the United States. HIV came to New York City between 1969 and 1973, long before the man known as Patient Zero became infected, researchers report October 26 in Nature.

Using techniques developed to decipher badly degraded ancient DNA from fossils, researchers reconstructed the genetic instruction books of eight HIV viruses from blood samples collected in 1978 and 1979 in New York City and San Francisco. The viral DNA was so genetically diverse that the viruses must have been circulating in the cities for years, picking up variations, says evolutionary biologist Michael Worobey of the University of Arizona in Tucson.

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