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The Harold Varmus Papers

Letter from William A. Blattner, National Institutes of Health to Harold Varmus pdf (102,489 Bytes) transcript of pdf
Letter from William A. Blattner, National Institutes of Health to Harold Varmus
Number of Image Pages:
2 (102,489 Bytes)
1985-09-10 (September 10, 1985)
Blattner, William A.
National Institutes of Health (U.S.)
Varmus, Harold
Original Repository: University of California, San Francisco. Archives and Special Collections. Harold E. Varmus Papers
This item is in the public domain. It may be used without permission.
Medical Subject Headings (MeSH):
Terminology as Topic
Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome
Exhibit Category:
AIDS and HIV: Science, Politics, and Controversy, 1981-1993
Box Number: 2
Folder Number: 14
Unique Identifier:
Document Type:
Letters (correspondence)
Physical Condition:
Series: UCSF Collections
SubSeries: Collection Number MSS 88-47
SubSubSeries: Human Retrovirus Study Group, 1981-1987
Folder: HIV clinical opinions on the naming of the virus, 1985
September 10, 1985
Dear Dr. Varmus:
Thank you for your letter of August 12. I appreciate the difficulties that you are undoubtedly encountering in addressing the thorny issue of the nomenclature surrounding the recently discovered human retroviruses. I concur with your concern that linking the most recently isolated member of this family to the disease that it undoubtedly causes has great potential for alarming persons who may be identified as being infected with this agent. In fact, my experience in studies with other types of human retroviruses associated with lymphoproliferative malignancies has taught me that substantial anxieties arise when a disease based nomenclature is used. In particular, normal persons infected with human T-cell "leukemia virus" types I and II are quite alarmed when told of this infection. Quite frankly, for this reason, I welcomed the adoption of the human T-cell lymphotrophic virus nomenclature which has helped enormously in patient interaction. The same can be said for not calling HTLV-III the AIDS virus. Unlike animals where describing the virus by the associated disease is useful, for humans, this practice is probably not suitable, and an alternative should be sought. I would certainly urge that some nomenclature such as human T-lymphotropic virus be considered.
An alternative to HTLV would involve developing an entirely new nomenclature which would be "generic" in its orientation. Thus, the currently discovered agents could potentially be termed HRV1, HRV2, and HRV3 for human retrovirus type I, II, and III. The advantage of this "generic" nomenclature is that it obviates the rather tiresome debate about similarities or differences of these agents which are totally focused on the nomenclature problem, and it sets the stage for the fact that undoubtedly there will be future isolations of retroviruses associated with diseases of many different types and presumably with different trophisms (e.g., non-T-cell trophisms) as well.
I hope that these comments will prove useful to you in your undoubtedly difficult discussions and negotiations.
Please feel free to call upon me concerning this issue. Best wishes.
William A. Battner, M.D.
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