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September 9, 1992

Still a Mystery but 'Not Likely' a Virus

JAMA. 1992;268(10):1235-1236. doi:10.1001/jama.1992.03490100023003

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IN THE LAY press the latest medical enigma has gained currency as the "mystery virus." Those who write and broadcast the news appropriated the name "MTV (media transforming virus)," the inspiration of a Wall Street Journal reporter who was struck by the dramatic alacrity with which her colleagues embraced an item that surfaced at, but was entirely extraneous to, the Eighth International Conference on AIDS.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC), which convened a hasty meeting at its Atlanta, Ga, headquarters less than a month after the first national reports of the new what-is-it, described the phenomenon as "CD4+ T-lymphocyte depletion in persons without evident HIV [human immunodeficiency virus] infection."

At this gathering, nearly every one of dozens of governmental, academic, and clinical disease experts expressed the opinion that while it remains a puzzle and undeniably piqued reporters' curiosity, whatever is making a very small, highly varied group of people