Scientists have managed to reconstruct the route by which HIV/Aids arrived in the US – exonerating once and for all the man long blamed for the ensuing pandemic in the west.

Using sophisticated genetic techniques, an international team of researchers have revealed that the virus emerged from a pre-existing epidemic in the Caribbean, arrived in New York by the early 1970s and then spread westwards across the US.

The research also confirms that Gaétan Dugas, a French-Canadian flight attendant, was not the first person in the US to be infected, despite being dubbed “Patient zero” in a study of gay men with Aids in 1984. Based on that study, author Randy Shilts named Dugas in 1987 and wrote that “there’s no doubt that Gaëtan played a key role in spreading the new virus from one end of the United States to the other.”

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