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.