Two new AIDS viruses discovered in West Africa in 1985 appear to be variants of the same virus, according to AIDS researchers at a medical meeting in San Francisco last week. But the French and American scientists who discovered the viruses still do not agree on whether these variants pose significant health threats.
One virus, LAV-II, was isolated by a team led by Dr. Luc Montagnier of the Pasteur Institute in Paris; the other, HTLV-IV, was discovered by Dr. Myron Essex and other researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health.
Montagnier and Essex believe the new viruses are transmitted by sexual contact and through the blood. But they continue to present conflicting data on the ability of the variant viruses to cause acquired immune deficiency syndrome.
Montagnier believes the variant viruses are just as deadly as the original AIDS virus. He said he has isolated the LAV-II virus from 30 patients from West Africa, including 22 with illnesses related to AIDS.