For more than 30 years, Gaétan Dugas was blamed for bringing the AIDS epidemic to the United States. A French-Canadian who died in 1984, Dugas was thought to have carried the disease to America and transmitted it to scores of sexual partners while working as a flight attendant.
But this week, scientists finally cleared the name of the man who, in the history of the AIDS epidemic, came to be known as “Patient Zero.”
In a study published in the journal Nature, the researchers found that blood sampled from Dugas in 1983 contained the same strain of HIV that was infecting men in New York City as early as 1971 — three years before he arrived in the U.S. as an employee for Air Canada.
“In short, we found no evidence that Patient 0 was the first person infected by this lineage of HIV-1,” the researchers wrote.
The study builds on decades of research that has sought to answer the medical mystery of how exactly AIDS made its way to the U.S.