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Threatened chimps may hold key to AIDS
(Agencies)
Updated: 2005-06-10 09:19

Chimpanzees may hold vital clues for mankind's war against the AIDS virus, but the apes could be wiped out before they reveal their secrets, a leading genetic expert warned Wednesday.


Chimpanzee populations are infected with viruses that closely resemble the HIV-1 strain of the AIDS virus, which is the most common among humans. [baidu]
Paul Sharp of Britain's University of Nottingham told an AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa, that the latest research indicated that chimpanzees ! humanity's closest living relative ! were an important but increasingly endangered resource for scientists hoping to better understand the HIV virus.

Chimpanzee populations are infected with viruses that closely resemble the HIV-1 strain of the AIDS virus, which is the most common among humans.

Unlike humans, however, chimps do not progress to full-blown AIDS, an intriguing mystery for researchers who hope to discover how to slow or stop the deadly disease in humans.

"If we can understand chimpanzees maybe we can understand more about how the virus affects humans," Sharp said. "Of course, we need to do that before chimpanzees become extinct."

Some researchers fear Africa's chimpanzees could be wiped out in about 50 years ! even earlier for certain species ! because they are hunted for meat and threatened by deforestation and disease.

One U.N. study last year said less than 10 percent of the forest home of Africa's great apes would be left relatively undisturbed by 2030 if road building, construction of mining camps and other developments continue at current levels.

Sharp said researchers believed chimpanzees originally contracted their version of HIV ! known as SIV ! from other monkeys.

He said it was now believed that either the virus evolved to become less deadly or that chimpanzees developed physical strategies for battling the virus.



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