On This Day in Humanity’s Battle against Infectious Disease: Discovery of HIV-1

By the bioMérieux Connection Editors

Science published two papers that identified HIV as the cause of acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) in 1983: “Isolation of a T-lymphotropic retrovirus from a patient at risk for acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS),” by Luc L Montagnier and his team at the Pasteur Institute in Paris; and, “Isolation of human T-cell leukemia virus in acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS),” by Robert Gallo and his team at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, MD.

A third team from the University of California, San Francisco also isolated the virus at the same time. While the name of the virus was still being debated—the virus was called lymphadenopathy-associated virus, human T-cell leukemia virus type III, and AIDS-associated retrovirus—the three independent teams collectively confirmed that HIV-1 was the cause of AIDS.

This discovery lead directly to rapid diagnostics for the virus as well as anti-retroviral therapies.

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