A new gene study revealed that “Patient Zero” was not the one responsible for the AIDS epidemic in the U.S. The study showed that the epidemic started in the 1970s not in the 1980s when the “Patient Zero” was discovered.
“Patient Zero” was a flight attendant who was “held responsible” for spreading the virus in the U.S. Scientists suspected that HIV circulated in the U.S many years before this first case was identified. This study proved that there were other cases of HIV before this one was discovered in 1981 in Los Angeles.
Michael Worobey is the evolutionary biologist who led this study. Along with his team, he used a new approach to tie together the genes of the first people who were diagnosed with this disease. They used the genetic sequence of the HIV virus using the blood samples of eight bisexual and gay men who participated in a hepatitis B study between 1978 and 1979.
After they studied the genetic changes in the virus samples they found that the HIV virus first appeared in New York in the 1970s. This triggered the epidemic in the North America. The virus came from the Caribbean.
The researchers then used the same approach in order to extract the HIV code from “Patient Zero”. Gaetan Dugas was identified as being “Patient Zero”, the one that played a key role and spread the virus. Despite the fact that the media saw him as a villain, this study proved that he is not the first case of HIV and this means that he did not start the North American epidemic.
“This individual was simply one of thousands infected before HIV was recognized,” study co-author Richard McKay.
Researchers succeeded in making an HIV family tree that showed how the virus managed to spread. The leader of the study believes that the first case was in Africa in the first years of the 20th century. The same virus spread from Africa to the U.S in the late 1960s. In 1971 the virus managed to spread in New York. This is how the epidemic started.
Scientists believe that there have been cases of HIV before “Patient Zero” was discovered and before the CDC knew about this virus.
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