Case Studies

Microbes: The origins and evolution of HIV

Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is the cause of AIDS. Since HIV was discovered in 1981, there has been considerable speculation about its origin. One hypothesis suggests that HIV was transmitted to humans from other primates. The close genetic relationship between humans and African primates makes it likely that viruses could be passed between these species. In this exercise, students compare genetic sequence data from Simian Immunodeficiency Virus (SIV) and HIV and speculate about HIV’s likely origin.

Case study written by: Anne Fischer, Formerly of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig.
Edited by Dean Madden, NCBE, University of Reading.