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Researchers estimate: Chimpanzees acquired immunity from AIDS about 2 million years ago

Research has found signs of a deadly disease that attacked chimpanzees more than 2 million years ago; The assessment: their chimpanzees did not have an immune defense system - they became extinct; The researchers: The consequences could be terrifying

By: Moti Gal, Walla!

Dutch researchers believe that chimpanzees are not affected by the AIDS epidemic because they developed immunity about two million years ago. The researchers estimate that an epidemic similar to AIDS caused the death of masses of chimpanzees, and left future generations resistant to the HIV virus of its types. If the hypothesis turns out to be correct, it could explain why chimpanzees do not contract the deadly disease, even though their DNA is 98% identical to that of humans.

The researchers base their hypothesis on a study of 35 chimpanzees, conducted by the Biomedical Center for Primate Research in the Netherlands. In the study it was found that chimpanzees have a unique genome in the area responsible for the immune system that fights diseases.

The head of the research team, Dr. Ronald Buntrop, said that in chimpanzees there is no genetic variation in the genes responsible for the immune system, a fact that points to a deadly disease that attacked them in the distant past. This unknown disease apparently wiped out most of the chimpanzee population that lacked a defense system against the disease, leaving only a few survivors.

This fact, in addition to the knowledge that the modern chimpanzees that exist today are immune to the AIDS virus and its various subtypes, leads to the hypothesis that it is indeed an AIDS disease that killed the chimpanzees about two million years ago. According to the scientists, if it turns out that their hypothesis is correct, the future consequences could be "quite scary". The research findings will be published in an upcoming issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Sciences.

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