The discovery of the first human retrovirus: HTLV-1 and HTLV-2

Retrovirology. 2005 Mar 2;2:17. doi: 10.1186/1742-4690-2-17.


I describe here the history leading up to and including my laboratory's discovery of the first human retrovirus, HTLV-I, and its close relative, HTLV-II. My efforts were inspired by early work showing a retroviral etiology for leukemias in various animals, including non-human primates. My two main approaches were to develop criteria for and methods for detection of viral reverse transcriptase and to identify growth factors that could support the growth of hematopoietic cells. These efforts finally yielded success following the discovery of IL-2 and its use to culture adult T cell lymphoma/leukemia cells.

Publication types

  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • History, 20th Century
  • Human T-lymphotropic virus 1 / isolation & purification*
  • Human T-lymphotropic virus 2 / isolation & purification*
  • Humans
  • Leukemia, T-Cell / history*
  • Leukemia, T-Cell / virology
  • Lymphoma, T-Cell / history*
  • Lymphoma, T-Cell / virology