AIDS Linked to Ancient Tiger
Feline DNA found in virus
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 7, 2009 9:08 AM CST
An ancient tiger may have been the first to carry the AIDS virus.   (AP Photo/Jeff McIntosh, The Canadian Press)

(Newser) – Researchers have found a strand of feline DNA in the AIDS virus, leading them to believe that the virus was incubated in a tiger thousands or millions of years ago. They speculate that the tiger may have bitten a monkey, setting in motion the viral evolution that would ultimately lead to the infection of humans. Though the research is unlikely to directly lead to treatment breakthroughs, it expands scientists’ understanding of the virus.

“It’s a rare and unusual thing that the virus would actually pick up some of the machinery of the cell that it infected,” said the study’s coauthor. From here, researchers will examine whether the gene is present in SIV, a monkey-only cousin to AIDS, and whether the presence or absence of the gene correlates to the strength of the virus. That finding could have treatment implications, reports HealthDay.