Frequent detection and isolation of cytopathic retroviruses (HTLV-III) from patients with AIDS and at risk for AIDS

Science. 1984 May 4;224(4648):500-3. doi: 10.1126/science.6200936.


Peripheral blood lymphocytes from patients with the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) or with signs or symptoms that frequently precede AIDS (pre-AIDS) were grown in vitro with added T-cell growth factor and assayed for the expression and release of human T-lymphotropic retroviruses (HTLV). Retroviruses belonging to the HTLV family and collectively designated HTLV-III were isolated from a total of 48 subjects including 18 of 21 patients wih pre-AIDS, three of four clinically normal mothers of juveniles with AIDS, 26 of 72 adult and juvenile patients with AIDS, and from one of 22 normal male homosexual subjects. No HTLV-III was detected in or isolated from 115 normal heterosexual subjects. The number of HTLV-III isolates reported here underestimates the true prevalence of the virus since many specimens were received in unsatisfactory condition. Other data show that serum samples from a high proportion of AIDS patients contain antibodies to HTLV-III. That these new isolates are members of the HTLV family but differ from the previous isolates known as HTLV-I and HTLV-II is indicated by their morphological, biological, and immunological characteristics. These results and those reported elsewhere in this issue suggest that HTLV-III may be the primary cause of AIDS.

MeSH terms

  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / blood
  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / microbiology*
  • Adult
  • Antigens, Viral / analysis
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cytopathogenic Effect, Viral
  • Deltaretrovirus / isolation & purification*
  • Deltaretrovirus / physiology
  • Deltaretrovirus / ultrastructure
  • Female
  • Homosexuality
  • Humans
  • Immune Sera / pharmacology
  • Interferon Type I / immunology
  • Male
  • RNA-Directed DNA Polymerase / metabolism
  • Risk
  • T-Lymphocytes / microbiology


  • Antigens, Viral
  • Immune Sera
  • Interferon Type I
  • RNA-Directed DNA Polymerase