Pre-AIDS Chimp Discoveries

Thomas Keske TKeske at
Sun Feb 20 12:46:42 EST 2000

> It shouldn't be too surprising to find a huge amount of work done
> investigating every conceivable aspect of chimpanzees, since they are one
> our closest evolutionary relatives.  Much has been learned about human

Large numbers of experiments on chimps didn't surprise me, only the
large numbers specifically with Pan troglodytes, because I thought that
they were rare and near extinction.

> beneficial to both the chimp and the virus.  The same thing may eventually
> happen with HIV and humans, that eventually the relationship between us
> the virus might drift towards commensalism rather than parasitism.

Yes, I realize this.  This is one of the arguments sometimes used
to suggest that HIV is actually "new", rather than old.  It isn't in the
evolutionary interest of a virus to kill its only host.  This is why viruses
tend to become less virulent in time.

I realize that they *can* become more deadly, as with 1989 flu.  I'm
talking about the broad evolutionary trend.

> While retroviruses have been known for many years, primate retrovirology
> a late-comer.  The argument that HIV should have been discovered many

Max Essex and Don Francis were certainly doing a lot of experimentation
with cat retroviruses that were quite AIDS-like, and certainly had an
interest in the possibilities of human retroviruses.

> sooner has one glaring flaw:  It wasn't until the late 70s that culture
> systems were developed to allow for long term growth of lymphocytes.  Bob

The timeframe of late 1970s is still adequate.  There is also a typical
time lag, sometimes 10 years or more, between when something is credited
as "discovered", meaning officially published, versus when the foundation
was really laid and practical knowledge really at hand, at least in limited

Tom Keske

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