Foundations | A Look at the Discovery of HIV

The goal, wrote Francoise Barré-Sinoussi in 1983 on her lab book page, was "to find an activity of reverse transcriptase type HTLV in the culture supernatants." Barré-Sinoussi, in her mid-30s at the time, found it. She, along with fellow Institut Pasteur colleagues Claude Chermann and Luc Montagnier, isolated this retrovirus from abnormally large lymph node cells that were taken from a patient dubbed BRU. The researchers called the virus lymphadenopathy-associated virus (LAV).1 Says Robin Weiss, University College, London, "[They] worked as a team and within that group, Barré-Sinoussi was a key player. She did the culture work, realized that the virus killed lymphocytes, that it had a cytopathic effect in culture ... and showed that there was reverse transcriptase.... That was beautiful, wonderful work."

1. F. Barré-Sinoussi et al., "Isolation of a T-lymphotropic retrovirus from a patient at risk...

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