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University of Iowa News Release


Nov. 6, 2009

Researchers find need for study of diversity, evolution of HIV-related viruses

Scientists need to learn more about the great diversity of naturally occurring immunodeficiency viruses, according to University of Iowa researcher Nelson Ting, co-author of a paper published in the November 2009 issue of the Journal of Virology.

The study found three new retroviral strains related to human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in blood samples from endangered Ugandan red colobus monkeys in East Africa. The three strains were very different from other known strains, even those found in other red colobus monkey populations. Ting said that interestingly, despite harboring the HIV-related viruses, these primates are not thought to develop AIDS-like symptoms.

Comparing the genetics of the red colobus monkeys of eastern Africa to those of western Africa, Ting found that about 4.5 million years of evolution separate the two groups, suggesting immunodeficiency viruses may be much older than previously thought and their evolution may be closely linked to the evolution of the monkeys.

Ting and his colleagues concluded that increasing our understanding of retroviral diversity in closely related primate groups should help scientists to better understand host-virus co-evolution.

Ting is assistant professor of anthropology in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and researcher in the Roy J. Carver Center for Comparative Genomics.

The study's lead author was Tony Goldberg of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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