The epidemic emergence of HIV: What novel enabling factors were involved

João Dinis Sousa, Viktor Müller, AM Vandamme

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Humans acquired retroviruses from simians, mainly through bushmeat handling. All epidemically successful HIV groups started to spread in early 20th century, contrasting with the antiquity of T-cell lymphotropic viruses, implying that novel enabling factors were involved in HIV emergence. Here we review the Parenteral Serial Transmission and the Enhanced Heterosexual Transmission hypotheses for the adaptation and early spread of HIV. Epidemic start roughly coincides in time with peak genital ulcer disease in cities, suggesting a major role for sexual transmission. Only ill-adapted and rare HIV groups emerged after approximately 1950, when injections and transfusions attained their maximal levels, suggesting that if parenteral serial transmission was necessary for HIV adaptation, it had to be complemented by sexual transmission for HIV to reach epidemic potential.
Original languageEnglish
JournalFuture Virology
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Central Africa
  • genital ulcer disease;
  • HIV
  • male circumcision
  • origin of HIV
  • unsterile injections
  • West Africa


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