The HIV pandemic with us today may have begun its global spread from Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) around 1920, according to a new study. A team of researchers have reconstructed the genetic history of the HIV virus by analyzing gene sequences found in a major HIV database.

The authors explain that, between the 1920s and 1950s, a ‘perfect storm’ of factors, including urban growth, strong railway links during Belgian colonial rule, and the rise of sex trade, combined to see HIV emerge from Kinshasa and spread across the globe.

Original research paper published in Science on October 2, 2014.

Names and affiliations of selected authors

Nuno R. Faria, University of Oxford, United Kingdom

Jacques Pépin, Sherbrooke University, Quebec