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The Harold Varmus Papers

Memorandum from Harold Varmus to members of the human retrovirus subcommittee of the Retrovirus Study Group [with the initial set of proposals on the nomenclature of the AIDS virus] pdf (99,841 Bytes) transcript of pdf
Memorandum from Harold Varmus to members of the human retrovirus subcommittee of the Retrovirus Study Group [with the initial set of proposals on the nomenclature of the AIDS virus]
Number of Image Pages:
2 (99,841 Bytes)
1985-05-24 (May 24, 1985)
Varmus, Harold
Original Repository: University of California, San Francisco. Archives and Special Collections. Harold E. Varmus Papers
Reproduced with permission of the Regents of the University of California.
Medical Subject Headings (MeSH):
Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome
Terminology as Topic
Exhibit Category:
AIDS and HIV: Science, Politics, and Controversy, 1981-1993
Box Number: 2
Folder Number: 16
Unique Identifier:
Document Type:
Physical Condition:
Series: UCSF Collections
SubSeries: Collection Number MSS 88-47
SubSubSeries: Human Retrovirus Study Group, 1981-1987
Folder: Human retrovirus subcommittee correspondence, 1985-1986
May 24, 1985
TO: Members of the human retrovirus subcommittee of the Retrovirus Study Group
FROM: Harold Varmus
I am enclosing two sets of documents for study and comment: a collection of proposals for naming human AIDS virus isolates and a group of letters that provide advice or endorsements of other proposals. You will find a surprisingly large number of names advanced, including those already in use (see Table). Many of these are variations on the same theme (e.g., dependent upon the choice of letters to emphasize in the acronym), but there are other differences that represent fundamentally distinct attitudes towards nomenclature. These range from the non-discriminatory approach of numbering distinct human retroviruses in order of isolation (e.g., human retrovirus-1, -2, etc.) to approaches based upon disease association (e.g., human AIDS or AIDS-related viruses), pathogenetic mechanism (e.g., human immunodeficiency virus or immunosuppression virus), cell tropism (human T cell lymphotropic virus), or combinations of these features (e.g., human T lymphocyte destroying virus).
In responding to these suggestions, you should keep in mind several aspects of the problem: the basis for speciating viruses as described in my earlier mailing; the characteristics of the virus, if any, to be emphasized by the choice of the name; the acceptibility of names to the scientific and clinical communities; the precedents for choice of names in retrovirology (i.e., should we conform to the use of host species and "virus," rather than "retrovirus," in the name?); the devices that could be used to designate individual isolates of a species (an issue not formally in our purview); the effects of our choice upon the names for other human retroviruses (e.g., HTLV-1, human foamy viruses); and, I suppose inevitably, the realpolitik of what is likely to be used by those working with the viruses, independent of theoretical considerations.
I would like to have some response from everyone within a week of receiving this letter. Responses may be simple statements of preferences or point-by-point analyses of the various proposals. All are requested to return a straw ballot that is also enclosed. I hope with this vote to get some idea of the likelihood of reaching an agreement, with or without a meeting of at least some members of our group.
Names Proposed; Acronyms
Human retrovirus-3; HRV-3, or HR-3
Human AIDS virus (or AIDS-associated virus); HAV (or AAV)
AIDS-associated retrovirus; ARV
Human AIDS-related retrovirus; HARV
Human AIDS retrovirus; HAR
Lymphoadenopathy-AIDS virus; LAV
Human AIDS-lymphotropic virus (or lymphotropic AIDS-causing virus); HALV (or HLAV)
Human T cell lymphotropic virus-III; HTLV-III
Human T lymphotropic retrovirus; HTLR
Human lymphotropic retrovirus; HLRV
Human T lymphocyte destroying virus; HTLDV
Human T cell immunodepressant (or cytocidal) virus; HTIV (or HTCV)
Human immunodeficiency virus; HIDV
Human immunosuppression virus; HISV (or HIV)
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