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Chimps, AIDS, And Immunity 464

Anonymous Coward writes "Researchers at the Biomedical Primate Research Center in The Netherlands have come up with a theory as to why modern chimps don't develop AIDS and its variants. The chimps in the study were found to share a usually uniform cluster of genes in the area that controls their immune systems' defenses against disease. This lack of genetic diversity suggests that a lethal sickness attacked chimps in the distant past. The theory postulates that approximately 2 million years ago an AIDS-like epidemic wiped out a large portion of the chimpanzee population. Those that survived developed an immunity to AIDS and its variants. If this theory holds true it may explain why some humans who are repeatedly exposed to HIV don't get sick."
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Chimps, AIDS, And Immunity

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  • SIV? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Maditude ( 473526 ) on Friday August 30, 2002 @02:09PM (#4171481)
    Anyone know why the article doesn't mention anything about SIV (Simian "IV" instead of Human
    "IV). From what I've read in the past, they are remarkably similar...
  • by Carnage4Life ( 106069 ) on Friday August 30, 2002 @02:09PM (#4171490) Homepage Journal
    From the Slashdot blurb:

    Those that survived developed an immunity to AIDS and its variants. If this theory holds true it may explain why some humans who are repeatedly exposed to HIV don't get sick

    What does one have to do with the other? Besides the fact that there is a quote in the article that states
    He also said there is no definitive proof linking specific genes with resistance to AIDS in either chimpanzees or humans,
    the only way this has a bearing on human immunity is if the submitter is suggesting that those humans with AIDS immunity are evolved from chimps two million years ago which seems highly unlikely.
  • by buzzdecafe ( 583889 ) on Friday August 30, 2002 @02:19PM (#4171604)
    Several long-term non-progressors, as they're called, have this in common: They didn't take toxic antiretroviral medications. (ref [healtoronto.com])

    The science surrounding HIV-AIDS is about as corrupt as the Renaissance popes: From the fraud of Gallo, to the profiteering of Burroughs-Wellcome (AZT), to the dubious "Quantitative" PCR technique . . . But billions of dollars keep AIDS, Inc. propped up.

  • Re:Rather simple (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 30, 2002 @02:29PM (#4171712)

    Most of the people who appear immune to the infection contain a mutation in the CCR5 receptor . . . . This common form of resistance doesn't require any cluster of genes nor any mysterious genetic variation or evolutionary alteration.

    Ok, this may be a stupid question, but isn't a mutation a genetic variation or evolutionary alteration? How else but a person's genes would determine whether or not the particular mutation is expressed?

  • by anzha ( 138288 ) on Friday August 30, 2002 @02:33PM (#4171757) Homepage Journal
    Ethical questions aside, So how difficult would it be to purposefully change this one gene in an embryo?

    What else does this gene impact? Obviously it has been changed naturally in some people, so it may not have that much of an impact...
  • by theCat ( 36907 ) on Friday August 30, 2002 @02:39PM (#4171833) Journal
    That's what Niles Eldredge and Stephen Jay Gould called it. Basically, evolution by totally getting your ass kicked. No, it doesn't really apply to humans, we're outside the flow of evolution for all practical purposes. We evolve via understanding, not genetics.
  • by ArcSecond ( 534786 ) on Friday August 30, 2002 @02:48PM (#4171924)
    Two questions:

    How many strains of HIV are there (or that we know about), and what differences are there in their vectors, mechanisms, and effects?

    Secondly, has there been any evidence that once infected with one strain, that there is a resistance to a new one? For example, if a Chimp is infected with SIV, is it less likely to become infected with HIV (or vice versa)?

    Just wondering if any evidence has cropped up to suggest there is promise in William Gibson's "benign HIV+" idea (I think it was in Virtual Light).
  • by Buck2 ( 50253 ) on Friday August 30, 2002 @02:52PM (#4171950) Homepage
    Actually, you are probably speaking from a position that benefits from hindsight.

    If the latency period of HIV is up to ten years (which is the last I've heard of it), and if my uncle died in 1992 (which he did), then if we also give a few years of wasting away (I don't know when he first developed symptoms), then he could have been infected way back in the 70's.

    There was little to no information about HIV at the time. Think about all of the people who were infected by blood transfusions and whatnot. We only know that these things need to be checked out now. For my uncle, who probably got it from sex, and for blood transfusion victims, the disease basically "did just happen".

    The only way it could have been prevented, because the vector was unknown, and, actually the disease was practically unknown, would have been to not engage in sex. Hah.
  • by lingqi ( 577227 ) on Friday August 30, 2002 @06:22PM (#4173566) Journal
    The implications are scary because several things:

    (as it's friday afternoon, I am kinda lazy to provide links, but all should be found on the web here or another)

    1) HIV is spreading, and doing so at a faster rate than before. Partly it's because of people are getting the idea that the "cocktail treatment" has effect -- but the truth is that it's not nearly that effective for the amount of casual sex people tend to want to carry.

    2) HIV mutates faster than we can come up with drugs for them. some strains, in fact, was resistant / became resistant (through mutation, presumably) even before a vaccine / treatment was made into mass production

    3) many leads for possible cure has turned out to be dead-ends. I am sure many have heard about the people (select few, 5% or so?) who contract HIV but does not actually exhibit the symptoms of AIDS for a long time (15-20 years) -- Eventually it turns out that these are people who simply had a combination of good immune system and a "weak" strain of HIV. they eventually got AIDS.

    4) vaccination requires a response from the immune system toward an agent (mutated, harmless version of HIV, for example) -- however this response we want to elicit from the immune system is *not a natural one*, meaning that it is not one that occurs, or have been observerd to occur (through much searching, as you could imagine) natually, and worse yet, *MAY NOT EXIST*.

    there are a couple others; but unless much more breakthrough level results are obtained, soon, the AIDS epidemic will become a catastrophic event that will have no less impact on the world today as the Black Plague had in times past.
  • by Travelr9 ( 514162 ) on Friday August 30, 2002 @11:35PM (#4174934)

    I heard Craig Venter speak in London a few months ago. He discussed this gene at some length. This gene exists in about 9% of caucasian people, but only .01% of blacks. It provides almost 100% immunity to catching AIDS. It's thus part of the explanation why AIDS is more of a general plague in Africa. (geometric expansion at .999 is ever so much more rapid than geometric expansion at .91)

    What's most interesting is that using gene divergence/dating techniques, the emergence of this gene in the caucasian population can be dated to just 700 years ago -- such a recent emergence is necessary to explain such a signficant difference between two groups of humans.

    700 years ago was, of course, when the Plague hit Europe circa 1300 and killed off more than half the population; and CCR5, in addition to conferring immunity to AIDS, is highly effective at conferring immunity to the plague. Thus this gene got a big boost in the Caucasian population as people who didn't have it died more frequently, whereas in Africa, without the plague, it remained a minor genetic factor.

    Pretty cool, huh?

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