Scientists have managed to identify the key features of a virus that had affected Chimpanzee's at least a million years ago.

The so-called retrovirus were identified by DNA sequence and has been put to lab tests similar to what the modern day viruses are done. Identifying the receptor for the virus could also help in understanding disease such as HIV, for which billions of dollars are being spent to identify a cure.The virus is called CERV2, which incidentally is also found in the genes of modern day chimpanzee. Humans however do not carry the virus.

Scientists expect the virus could have affected chimpanzees at least a million years ago, while human's digressed from the primate at least five million years ago. Interestingly, the team of researchers says that the human cells could potentially protect the primates from the virus.

"Our major motivation for getting involved in this is to try and explain how our host defences evolved," says Paul Bieniasz, a virologist at the Rockefeller University in New York. The research is being published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of sciences.