Antibodies Reactive with Human T-Lymphotropic Retroviruses (HTLV-III) in the Serum of Patients with AIDS
In cats, infection with T-lymphotropic retroviruses can cause T-cell proliferation and leukemia or T-cell depletion and immunosuppression. In humans, some highly T4 tropic retroviruses called HTLV-I can cause T-cell proliferation and leukemia. The subgroup HTLV-II also induces T-cell proliferation in vitro, but its role in disease is unclear. Viruses of a third subgroup of human T-lymphotropic retroviruses, collectively designated HTLV-III, have been isolated from cultured cells of 48 patients with acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). The biological properties of HTLV-III and immunological analyses of its proteins show that this virus is a member of the HTLV family, and that it is more closely related to HTLV-II than to HTLV-I. Serum samples from 88 percent of patients with AIDS and from 79 percent of homosexual men with signs and symptoms that frequently precede AIDS, but from less than 1 percent of heterosexual subjects, have antibodies reactive against antigens of HTLV-III. The major immune reactivity appears to be directed against p41, the presumed envelope antigen of the virus.