First reported in 1981, AIDS was quickly shown to be a mysterious epidemic which spread with no known cause. A worldwide search for the cause began.
Scientists thought a retrovirus could be the infectious agent. There was a race to identify the virus, led by teams in France and the USA. The patterns of patients affected, transmission through filtered blood, and low numbers of a certain type of white blood cells in AIDS patients all indicated retroviral infection, but not much was known about retroviruses.
The scientists studied cells from infected patients and isolated the virus, which they identified as a new human retrovirus. Francoise Barré-Sinoussi and Luc Montagnier, working in Paris, won the 2008 Nobel Prize for their work.
Francoise Barré-Sinoussi is interviewed here.
Last edited: 17 March 2022 15:00