Scientists find HIV's 'missing link' in ill chimps

WASHINGTON (AP) - A study led by a University of Alabama at Birmingham professor shows what scientists say is a "missing link" in the virus that causes AIDS.

The discovered virus bridges the gap between the infection that does no harm to most monkeys and the one that kills millions of people.

According to results of the nine-year study published in Thursday's journal Nature, that link is a virus that is killing chimpanzees in the wild at a disturbingly high rate.

Chimpanzees are the first primate besides man shown to get sick in the wild in significant numbers from a virus related to HIV.

Chimps are also man's closest relative among primates.

Lead author and UAB professor of medicine Beatrice Hahn said scientists are trying to figure out why the monkeys don't get sick and the results might be applied to humans.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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