Stephanie Pappas

The oldest known nearly complete gene sequence from the HIV strain that spread across the world has been found in a tissue sample from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), a new study finds.

The tissue sample was taken and preserved in 1966, making this HIV sequence 10 years older than the previous oldest genome, which came from a blood sample taken in 1976 in the DRC. Gene sequences like these – which come from before the virus that causes AIDS was discovered in 1983 – help pinpoint the timing of genetic mutations in the virus. Those mutations, in turn, help scientists track the spread of the virus and the timing of when transmission of HIV took hold in humans.

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