October 8th, 2008

The French Win This One

The 2008 Nobel Prize in Medicine goes to Françoise Barré-Sinoussi and Luc Montagnier for discovery of HIV.  They each get one-quarter of the prize money, with one-half going to Harald zur Hausen for showing the relationship between human papillomavirus and cervical cancer.

For the record, if you search the Nobel press release for the word “Gallo”, you won’t find it mentioned anywhere.

Why is this notable?  Seems like ancient history, but actually two groups in 1983 claimed they discovered the virus that causes AIDS, both finding a human retrovirus — the one we now know as HIV. The French group called it “lymphadenopathy-associated virus” or LAV, and the Americans (led by Robert Gallo) “human T-lymphotropic virus III” or HTLV-III. We now know it was the same virus — indeed, due to “lab contamination,” sometimes literally the same — and that the French were first, but maybe (am being generous here) the Americans were a bit more practical (and certainly louder) about the implications of the discovery.

An academic truce of sorts ensued many years later — this was much less entertaining, but perhaps a good thing for international relations, at least until “Freedom Fries.”

One Response to “The French Win This One”

  1. kp says:

    interesting piece of information!!!

HIV Information: Author Paul Sax, M.D.

Paul E. Sax, MD

Contributing Editor

NEJM Journal Watch
Infectious Diseases

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