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Wild Chimpanzees Can Die from AIDS-Like Illness

Although the AIDS virus entered the human population via chimpanzees, scientists have long believed that chimpanzees do not develop AIDS. Now, however, an international team of researchers, including Dr. Jane Goodall, has shown that wild chimpanzees infected with simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) (the precursor of HIV-1) can, in fact, contract and die from an AIDS-like illness. The authors report that infected chimpanzees in their study group were 10-16 times more likely to die than those that were uninfected. The team also found that infected females were less likely to give birth and infants born to infected mothers were unlikely to survive. The virus, the researchers learned, was transmitted sexually and through mother's milk. Examination of tissue samples from dead chimpanzees revealed a loss of CD4+ T-cells (which are vital to immunity) in SIV-infected chimpanzees. Loss of these cells renders victims susceptible to many other infections--the classic indication of AIDS. “We hope this will lead to a better understanding of the virus that will benefit both humans and chimpanzees," commented Dr. Goodall. Dr. Beatrice Hahn was the senior author of this report, which appeared in the July 23 issue of Nature. [Press release 1] [Press release 2] [Nature News] [Nature abstract]