Scientists have managed to reconstruct the route by which HIV/Aids arrived in the US – exonerating once and for all the man long blamed for the ensuing pandemic in the west.
Using sophisticated genetic techniques, an international team of researchers have revealed that the virus emerged from a pre-existing epidemic in the Caribbean, arrived in New York by the early 1970s and then spread westwards across the US.
The research also confirms that Gaëtan Dugas, a Canadian flight attendant named in 1987 by author Randy Shilts, was not the first person in the US to be infected, despite being dubbed “Patient zero” by a study of homosexual men with Aids in 1984. Analysis of his HIV genome shows that it was typical of strains of the virus within the US at the time and was not the root from which the virus diversified in North America.
That, the authors say, ties in with a body of evidence that shows that Dugas was not the source of the pandemic in North America, highlighting that it was a typo that saw the original study’s reference to Dugas as “Patient O” (indicating that he lived outside of California), misleadingly written as “Patient 0” – a term now widely used to mean the first case of an outbreak. Read more