The Guardian reports that scientists have determined that the starting point for the HIV pandemic was Kinshasa, Congo's capital, in the 1920s. Scientists reconstructed the virus' history using DNA samples all the way to the 1950s, and to the 1920s using statistical models.
[...] The DNA allowed them to draw up a family tree of the virus that traced its ancestry through time and space. Using statistical models they could push farther back than the 1950s and locate the origin of the pandemic in 1920s Kinshasa.
People with HIV in central Africa at the time did not have specific symptoms that would have been written down in their medical records. The virus causes the immune system to collapse, leaving people open to all manner of infections. “For an epidemic like HIV where we’re trying to track back to before it was even discovered, genetics is the only source of information we have,” said Oliver Pybus, an evolutionary biologist at Oxford University and senior author on the study.
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