Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

HIV & AIDS Health Center

Font Size

Virus Hunters Track Early HIV

Tissue Sample From 1960 Yields Clues to How Virus Has Changed
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Oct. 1, 2008 -- It's like finding a piece of the past.

Researchers looking into the virus that causes AIDS have found HIV in a 1960 tissue sample of an infected woman from what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo).

Researchers, led by Michael Worobey, PhD, at the University of Arizona, compared the 1960 virus sample with a sample from 1959 -- the oldest known sample -- for clues on how the early HIV virus has evolved.

After looking at HIV in the tissue of the DR Congo woman and comparing it to the virus from 1959, researchers concluded that the virus evolved from one common ancestor sweeping through Africa in the beginning of the 20th century.

The research team also compared the genetics of the two viruses to HIV obtained from tissue samples from Belgium and Canadian AIDS patients from 1981 and 1997.

They found that the earlier virus changed -- or diversified -- well before it began to race the globe.

Researchers write in information presented with the findings that they believe HIV evolves in a "fairly reliable, clock-like fashion."

However, HIV is still shrouded in mystery.

Having access to the tissue of an infected person can help researchers unlock the genetic code of a disease and hopefully find clues to prevent further outbreaks.

Virus hunters have reason to be excited.

It's believed that many hospitals in west-central Africa have archived tissue specimens, which could contain early HIV.

That's like finding a treasure trove of genetic material, and "a vast source of clinical material for viral genetic analysis," write the researchers.

The research letter appears in the Oct. 1 edition of the journal Nature.

Today on WebMD

How much do you know?
contemplative man
What to do now.
Should you be tested?
HIV under microscope
What does it mean?
HIV AIDS Screening
man opening condom wrapper
HIV AIDS Treatment
Discrimination Stigma
Treatment Side Effects
grilled chicken and vegetables
obese man standing on scale
cold sore