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Virus Hunt: The search for the origin of HIV/AIDs [Hardcover]

Dorothy H. Crawford
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
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Book Description

27 Jun 2013
The hunt for the origin of the AIDS virus began over twenty years ago. It was a journey that went around the world and involved painstaking research to unravel how, when, and where the virus first infected humans.

Dorothy H. Crawford traces the story back to the remote rain forests of Africa - home to the primates that carry the ancestral virus - and reveals how HIV-1 first jumped from chimpanzees to humans in rural south east Cameroon. Examining how this happened, and how it then travelled back to Colonial west central Africa where it eventually exploded as a pandemic, she asks why and how it was able to spread so widely.

From hospital intensive care wards to research laboratories and the African rain forests, this is the wide-ranging story of a killer virus and a tale of scientific endeavour.

Frequently Bought Together

Virus Hunt: The search for the origin of HIV/AIDs + HIV/AIDS: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) + Viruses: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions)
Price For All Three: 23.87

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford; 1 edition (27 Jun 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199641145
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199641147
  • Product Dimensions: 21.6 x 14.2 x 3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 578,736 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description


[E]ngaging and informative ... Armed with graphs, maps, and tables, and also with a vast reservoir of research data, Crawford meticulously evaluates and documents a series of scenarios, to piece together a detailed scientific, and also human, picture of HIV. (Alina Oswald, A&U Magazine)

About the Author

Dorothy H. Crawford has been Assistant Principal for Public Understanding of Medicine at the University of Edinburgh since 2007. Her previous books include

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thorough research with occasional carelessness 29 Oct 2013
By SpecialOrder937 TOP 500 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I expected a lot from this book; Crawford is pre-eminent in the field of virology, and the hunt for the origin of such an impactful virus is an inherently interesting subject. But then I read the preface, which seemed rushed and, frankly, poorly written - almost as if it were an afterthought (it's never a good sign when a preface reads like an afterthought). Then on page 2 of the introductory chapter you get this:

"Uniquely, the disease [AIDS] specifically targeted sexually active gay men..."

Not only is such a statement guaranteed to get certain odious sections of the religious fraternity lifting their hands to the heavens in praise, it is quite simply wrong. AIDS is caused by a virus, and a virus is basically a section of genetic code that replicates itself given the right conditions; no virus in history has ever been able to identify something like a person's sexual orientation, let alone had the ability to "target" that person. Crawford, of course, knows this better than anyone, but her choice of wording is awful. What she might have said is something like:

"Uniquely, the disease appeared to be affecting only sexually active gay men..."

This was the case in 1981, when the disease was first recognised in the US. Since that time it has gone on to afflict millions of children and heterosexual people worldwide, testament to the fact that it doesn't specifically target any one group. Elsewhere in the book, you get this about the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic:

"...killing around 50 million people, many more than the estimated 10 million killed in the five years of combat [of World War I]."

This is the only academic text I've ever read that claims the First World War lasted for five years.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Eye opening 29 Oct 2013
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I, like probably the rest of the world bought into the theory that Aids was started by an African man having sexy with a monkey.

I was kind of right but not.

It seems that a breed of monkeys do naturally carry the aids virus in Cameroon, and watching the story unfold as to how and why it spread from monkeys to humans is still a widely discussed and non proven topic.

Theories range from men having sex with monkeys, to killing and eating them, to being bitten, but one thing remains clear. 1 man started it all, how scary is that.

1 person changed the course of history forever.

That person obviously cannot be traced because they are dead, but can you even begin to imagine that person and knowing his actions have killed 50 million people all over the world. "50 million"


I found this deeply engrossing and the complexity of Aids is fascinating as a disease. I mean no disrespect to all the millions of people that are currently affected by it, but as a virus it kicks serious butt.

The fact that it can totally destroy the human body in such a severe way with absolutely no cure is fascinating.
I mean how is it possible that a virus can keep changing its dna so you cannot kill it, that to me is quite intriguing.

There are some "pc" moments in the book that some people might not like and that is the focus on the fact that in the beginning of the pandemic it was only found in active gay men.

This may of been true in the beginning because gay men are notoriously promiscuous and dont wear protection, and the percentage of contracting aids through anal sex is much higher than contracting it through vaginal sex.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent read - highly recommended 3 Oct 2013
By Mr. Richard The book boy TOP 500 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Virus Hunt: The search for the origin of HIV/AIDs
By: Dorothy H. Crawford.
I am a Biologist but really like reading popular science books and had to have this book.

The aim of the book

This book sets out not to be a Biology text book but follows the hunt for the HIV virus and it's understanding more like an episode of CSI.

It not only explains the evolution of the disease but maps the personalities involved in finding out all about it. It's like a huge detective story involving lots of people and places with clues being picked up along the way.
It's certainly a complicated story with all the twists and turns of a novel but at the same time the author keeps the focus of the book insight. The author has done a great job in balancing science and keeping a story going at the same time.


Firstly you don't have to have know much about Biology or Biochemistry to read, understand and enjoy this book. Yes there are a few detailed explanations of the chemistry involved but this is explained very well and is easy to get to grips with. The narrative is quick and the story unfolds in a fascinating way making the book hard to put down.
For those who want to go a bit deeper into the mechanisms of this virus there is a comprehensive reference list at the back of the book.
There are a few illustrations, maps and diagrams in the book along to reinforce the text.


I really enjoyed this book and its style as it pulls together lots of loose ends and can be read by anyone with an interest in the subject.

The author is a renowned medical biochemist and obviously has a talent for writing lucidly and informatively at the same time.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone who wants a good and informative read.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
Published 1 month ago by CENTRAL LONDON MAN
4.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating detective story
This is a great story of science and society with global scope. We are led around the world to find the origin of HIV, and on the way a lot of medical and scientific knowledge is... Read more
Published 9 months ago by M. Smith
4.0 out of 5 stars Informative stuff
This was a very interesting and informative book. It is clear and well argued. I knew very little about the subject but this book was still easy to follow. Read more
Published 10 months ago by The Emperor
4.0 out of 5 stars A tale of monkeys
This authoritative and interesting piece of popular science, admirably succinct at only 200 pages (omitting footnotes) focuses largely on the evolutionary history of HIV and the... Read more
Published 10 months ago by Laura T
5.0 out of 5 stars Reads like a thriller
This is an amazing book.

Science delivered in a very readable, enthralling way.

You do not need to be a scientist to appreciate the book, and the language... Read more
Published 11 months ago by isis 1958
4.0 out of 5 stars A Biological Detective Story
Good cover, clear print, indexed and referenced, and generally a nicely produced little book. Nicely written, too. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Paul Pinn
4.0 out of 5 stars An absolute eye opener with some weighty research
I was young when the epidemic of AIDS hit the headlines back in the 80s and although its prevalence is still there, it seems somewhat muted these days. Read more
Published 12 months ago by TheShopaholic
4.0 out of 5 stars HIV Hunting
This book is an in depth look at the hunt for the origins of HIV. It covers the interrelated fields of zoology, virology, medicine, genetics and epidemiology and traces HIV and... Read more
Published 12 months ago by A. J. Russell-pattison
5.0 out of 5 stars Going Viral
Recent cases of positive testing for HIV (Human immunodeficiency virus) in the pornographic industry have highlighted the connection between unprotected sex, HIV and AIDS (acquired... Read more
Published 12 months ago by Neutral
4.0 out of 5 stars Engrossing
Whilst the media gave us scary stories about AIDS and the public grew terrified of the rapid spread of the disease scientists were frantically searching for the origins of the... Read more
Published 12 months ago by Jood
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