Genes taken from decades old blood samples show that the U.S. AIDS epidemic began in New York in the early 1970’s, disproving the long held belief that the virus was spread a decade later by a Canadian flight attendant who became known as “Patient Zero.” Years of testing and researching blood samples by a team of researchers at the UA resulted in debunking the belief that a single person could be to blame for the spread of an infectious disease.
The research team led by Dr. Michael Worobey, used blood samples from men diagnosed with HIV to study how the virus spread and mutated. They traced genetic changes in the virus samples taken from patients in New York and San Francisco. The researchers found that the HIV virus first jumped from the Caribbean to New York City around 1970, triggering the epidemic in North America.
In this episode:
Mike Worobey, Ph.D., UA Department Head Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Tim Swindle, Ph.D., Director and Head of the UA’s Lunar and Planetary Lab