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August 8, 1990

Science Ponders Whether HIV Acts Alone or Has Another Microbe's Aid

JAMA. 1990;264(6):665-666. doi:10.1001/jama.1990.03450060009001

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DEBATE has been rekindled over whether the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) itself grows virulent enough in the body to cause acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) and kill its host, or whether it has some help from another microbe.

In San Francisco, at the Sixth International Conference on AIDS, Jay A. Levy, MD, presented new data on increasing virulence. Levy is professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), and discoverer—shortly after the Pasteur Institute's Luc Montagnier, MD, and the National Cancer Institute's Robert Gallo, MD—of the similar organism he named "AIDS-related virus."

Levy and colleagues have found viral genetic changes that may help explain why HIV-positive people progress to AIDS. Their discoveries may also offer a new target for therapy.

"Recognizing the diversity of HIV strains," Levy says, "the surprising observation was made that an HIV strain obtained from an individual with nonsymptomatic infection was different from the