In article <Pine.SOL.3.91.950315150526.11901A-100000 at corona>,
Patrick O'Neil <patrick at corona> wrote:
>>>> > The most parsimonious scenario of all has an HIV ancestor
>> incubating > within human populations for about a thousand years or
>> so, with jumps > into various simian lines within the last few
>>>> Whaaaaaaaat? Says who?! All of a sudden, HIV has been in HUMANS
>> for a thousand odd years, and gets BACK into simians??
>>I too have not heard of this scenario. The first thing to do
to straighten this out is to make it clear whether you are
talking about HIV-1 or HIV-2. They probably have totally
different evolutionary histories, at least in humans. Molecular
clock estimates for divergence of HIV-1 from HIV-2 (or SIVs)
generally converge somewhere in the neighborhood of the
last few decades, not thousands of years.
By contrast, some SIVs are essentially identical to some HIV-2s,
and transmission of SIV into man has been observed in
real time, in a primate colony worker. It is probably
legit to call that virus an HIV-2, though I don't think
anyone has done so.
>As for a century or more period of time evolving in humans, this is not a
>big problem either. If it started out rare and rather benign as is the
>case with most retroviruses, then it could lay about for any period of
>time until some series of mutations and selective pressures began to
>favor a more pathological form (high sexual intercourse rates within and
>between populations is certainly going to favor higher pathogenicity.
>There seems to be some confusion here between high transmissability
and high pathogenicity, which are totally different things.
I don't know how one can conclude how retroviruses "start out"
in natural situations, but when SIV is introduced into a non-
native host, like a macaque, it starts out as an explosively
>Low pathogenicity within a host doesn't necessarily a "better" adaption.
>If selective pressures within a natural host population favor rapid
>transmission and pathogenesis, then it will develop in that direction
>regardless of how long the virus has been floating around within the host
For a virus that has historically probably been spread sexually
(such as lentiviruses) it seems clear that high, acute pathogenicity
will not favor transmission. Airborne or fomite-borne viruses
are another matter.
>Low pathogenicity within the host might just as well indicate a recent
>move into that population, meaning that the virus hasn't quite developed
>for maximum efficiency within that host, just as an overly high
>pathogenicity could mean the same thing IF it reduces the rate of
For viruses, as opposed to certain parasites, there is quite
a bit of support for the notion of adaptation toward low
pathogenicity for the native host, while having significant
pathogenicity for non-native hosts.ri.