Imagine that a new virus is being discovered that is transmitted mainly through sex and with which millions of people have already been infected. Most of infected will never notice any of this, but in about one tenth virus triggers a terrible disease. There is no vaccine. There is no cure. And n it happens: almost nothing.
It may not sound plausible. But in broad detail this is story of HTLV-1 virus. The pathogen was discovered almost 40 years ago, but hardly anyone knows it. Now, 60 researchers in an open letter to World Health Organization (WHO) are calling for more action to be taken against virus. "It is disappointing that people who are infected with HTLV-1 have received very little attention," it says in letter. With appeal, researchers of world want to finally make aware of pathogen and danger that comes from it. Well, because she's plaguing her guilty conscience.
When researcher Robert Gallo 1980 announced that he had discovered virus HTLV-1, it was still a scientific sensation. It was first retro virus found in humans. These viruses can rewrite RNA of your heritage into DNA and n integrate it into your host's genome. For example, y can cause cancer. In animals, such pathogens were known, but many researchers believed that y did not occur in humans. HTLV-1 was counter-proof, and it quickly became clear that virus could actually trigger an aggressive form of blood cancer.HIV turned into focus, HTLV-1 was forgotten
But barely a year after Gallo's discovery, first reports of a new disease appeared: AIDS. Gallo and ors suspected that this pathogen could also be a retro virus. The discovery of immunodeficiency virus HIV, which was initially called HTLV-3, gave m right. "Those who worked on retro viruses switched to HIV," says Antoine Gessain of Pasteur Institute in Paris. HTLV-1 disappeared in shadow of a global catastrophe that has killed more than 35 million people to this day.
"I didn't work on HTLV-1 at all, and that was a mistake, a big mistake," says Gallo today. He is one of signatories of open letter to WHO. The virus does not even appear in list of sexually transmitted diseases that World Health Organization leads, he complains. Although virus could be passed on to its children while breastfeeding mors, it is sometimes transmitted in blood transfusions. But in 80 percent of cases, people infect each or during sex, scientists write in letter to WHO.
The fact that HTLV-1 has been receiving a bit of attention for years now is due to two circumstances. On one hand, fight against HIV has lost a bit of urgency. Today, when y receive modern rapies, HIV-infected patients have an almost normal life expectancy. This opens up possibility for researchers to also turn to or retro viruses, for example HTLV-1. On or, reports of an epidemic of HTLV-1 among Australian natives triggered a strong media response.
In a study, researchers had investigated 1,889 Aboriginal people from Central Australia and showed that among over-50-year-olds almost every second carries virus (BMC Public Heath: Einsiedel et al., 2016). "I would not have thought such a high number possible," says Gallo. In March, Australian Research Group also published a study showing that many of infected suffer a severe lung disease, bronchiectasis, possibly a previously overlooked episode of virus (Plos NTD: Einsiedel et al., 2018). The episode shows how little is still known about spread and consequences of virus.Updated Date: 29 June 2018, 12:02