Frequent Detection and Isolation of Cytopathic Retroviruses (HTLV-III) from Patients with AIDS and at Risk for AIDS
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 with 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.