Gaëtan Dugas was accused of being patient zero that spread HIV in the US.
A study in Nature beliefs and reviews the history of the AIDS pandemic.
In 1981, a type of rare pneumonia and a rare cancer in several American patients were diagnosed.
They were all gay men residing in California, whose unusual infections seemed to indicate that her immune system was not working properly. What doctors did not imagine is that actually faced a nightmare. The HIV , unknown at the time, had jumped to theUnited States and was about to produce one of the deadliest pandemics in history . According to the World Health Organization , the virus has caused 70 million infections and more than 35 million dead.
Most affected by HIV eventually develop the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome or AIDS. The disease weakens the defenses, so many patients die from complications such as malignancies or opportunistic infections. Fear spread faster than even HIV, which eventually spread from Africa to Haiti and then to the US, to become a global pandemic unprecedented. In desperation, the company was looking for a culprit, someone to dispel uncertainty about the thousands and thousands of infections.Unfortunately, he succeeded: the scapegoats chosen was Gaëtan Dugas
The Letter Became Number
The Canadian flight attendant was gay and sexually active. Enough for the media first, and people then believe a legend that began with a typo reasons. A story fueled by stigma and terror that still causes HIV. While researchers analyzed the many cases that appeared, trying to relate to patients using sociograms, a chart type diagram to represent the relationships between different nodes.
The idea was to connect individuals diagnosed to understand how they were infected and if possible stop an unstoppable pandemic. One of those studies, however, would bury Dugas.Unlike other affected, the Canadian was able to provide the name of a 10% of people with whom he had had relations.Between 1979 and 1981, he had slept with 250 men annually, an average similar to that of other men. Mobility demanded his work prevented reside in a fixed place. So Dugas was marked with an “O”, which referred to ” Outside of California ” (outside of California, in Castilian). The letter was interpreted as if the patient zero , so that Gaëtan was accused of spreading HIV in the US. But it was all lies.
Dugas had been identified by doctors as“Case 057” . In his medical records contained the name of 72 partners with whom he had sex. Eight of them had AIDS, of whom half lived in California and half in New York.His homosexuality, promiscuity, and mobility were the three pieces that fit the researchers needed to determine who was patient zero. The head of the study, however, noted that the findings should be interpreted “with extreme caution” and “not be used to test hypotheses about the possible transmission of the etiologic agents”.
The Centers for Disease Control and Disease Prevention (CDC in English) never published their personal data. But doctors did share information with other health professionals and scientists.Enough for a journalist, Details Randy Shilts , find out his name after interviewing dozens of survivors infected. The editor had read reports about the individual “O” and after a stay at the CDC, should be interpreted that the patient zero both spoke. The publicity that accompanied his book And the Band Played On , published in 1987, did the rest. Dugas was accused of being “the man who spread HIV” in the United States.
Decades later, research has succeeded in demonstrating the terrible mistake he suffered Gaëtan Dugas. The Canadian died in 1984 without suspecting that he would be described as the “first stunk , ” the blame for the pandemic came to the United States. The reality, however, was another. A recent study, published in Nature , provides new biological and historical evidence showing that Dugas was not the zero HIV patient . The analysis of more than 2,000 serum samples collected between 1978 and 1979, which has allowed eight full genomes sequenced the virus, including affecting the assistant Air Canada, the Canadian has proven not spread AIDS. The work reinforces previous findings that had managed to exonerate.
“Phylogenetic trees depend on the samples you have, so you never get to identify the specific individual that started an epidemic , ” explained Hipertextual the Dr. Roger Paredes .The group leader Microbial Genomics Research Institute IrsiCaixa AIDS says that the search always patient zero “is a bit artificial , ” although mediatically have much pull. The same happened with the crisis of Ebola , in which a child two years as the first affected by the virus was identified. “It is still anecdotal, the key is that, globally, the disease is spread to many more people from there , ” says Paredes. In his view, “being first is not very important in order to be prepared against an epidemic.”
“We Have Not Won The Battle Against HIV”
The work published in Nature trace the route followed by HIV decades: after crossing the Atlantic, reached Caribbean territories and from there spread to the US. The article points out that the virus spread first in New York and then jumped to San Francisco and other towns. “The city of New York was a dry tinder where the fire caught quickly, ” says Michael Worobey of the University of Arizona. After its expansion in the US, the virus recrossed the ocean to settle in Europe and other regions. A study earlier, in which the group participated Paredes, he showed how the virus spread throughout the world. Interestingly, strains of western Europe and eastern Europe were not mixed until after the fall of the Berlin Wall .
Accusations of Dugas arrived to spread rumors completely implausible. It was said that, at that time, a gay man went through the gay bars for sex. Upon completion of intercourse, the alleged HIV status showed the aftermath of Kaposi’s sarcoma , the tumor that can affect AIDS patients, to make see your partner “who had fallen into the trap” .However, the Canadian had died three years before the publication of the book Shilts, which was publicized with the history of patient zero, although the journalist did not categorically afirmase that. Nevertheless, the stigma suffered memory Gaëtan continues today.
“The profiles of infected today vary widely. The most common is the young black women, married and faithful who are infected by her husband, “Paredes explained referring to the high number of cases appearing in Africa. Sexual prevention campaigns, however, have not had the desired effect. “Society knows very little HIV. AIDS is considered as a vintage disease because they see very far way”, says the researcherHipertextual . In recent times, fashions as chemsex sessions where drugs are consumed during sexual practices, experts worry about the risks of disinhibition and lack of protection by maintaining relationships.
“No way we have won the battle against HIV,” warns Walls. Fortunately, research has been able to increase the survival of patients. “Die fewer people, but there are also infected the population,” says the scientist IrsiCaixa . Among the current challenges, Paredes highlights the need for making treatment available to everyone, which would end the pandemic “in just a few decades.”However, one out of five people do not know you are infected by HIV and resistance to current treatments are a growing problem. The researcher highlights the need to promote prevention with vaccine development or extension of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), preventive pill that has already reduced the number of cases in cities where it has been authorized as San Francisco. The work in Nature , in addition to clear the name of Dugas, allows to know the history of the pandemic to better prepare for the future, especially in the hyper -connected world in which we live. And it is that the virus, unfortunately, know no borders.