Chapter 5

The Emperor's New Virus

"You discovered WHAT!?" Jackie shrieked.

"I found out that Robert Gallo may have created the AIDS virus about a decade before he allegedly discovered it."


"Come on."


"Well, I'll know more tomorrow. I'm going back to the dungeon to search his early work."


"You think there's a paper trail? But why would he have published something so incriminating?"


"Because he couldn't have possibly predicted that his creations might have caused an epidemic a decade later. Besides, Randy Shilts characterized Gallo as having a huge ego in And The Band Played On,' and those types like to see their names in print."

I had quickly read Shilts's highly regarded work about two years earlier. Though I skimmed through much of it, my most vivid memory was that Gallo erected barriers for colleagues racing against time in search of the deadly AIDS virus.

"You know the old saying 'publish or perish.' Today I discovered that Gallo's lab at the NCI put AIDS-like viruses together by the mid-1970s. They proudly published it."




"I might be wrong, but my intuition is telling me to thoroughly check it out; especially now that I know that the NCI, and most likely Gallo's lab, was the principal beneficiary of the $10 million DOD AIDS-like virus contract?"


"How do you know that?"


"By putting the pieces together," I replied. "The NCI was the WHO's chief virus distributor and they took over Fort Detrick. And Gallo was their top retrovirologist, that is, immune-system destroying germ expert. Anyway, I'll find out more in the morning. I'm leaving for Boston again early."

That night I couldn't sleep. Questions darted through my mind at lightening speed:

  • Had WHO officials known that their viral "reagents" and laboratory instructions were being used by biological weapons developers?

  • How could they not have? Immune system destroying "slow" cancer viruses were the rage back then.

  • Were WHO officials connected to NAS-NRC members who worked for the DOD?

  • Was Gallo a member of the NAS-NRC, and if so, was he directly involved in their negotiations with the DOD?

  • Had he participated in the controversial Fort Detrick symposium on "entry and control of foreign nucleic acid?"

  • Could he have been injecting RNA into cells to create cancers and analyzing white blood cell control mechanisms as early as the 1960s?

This would have drawn DOD attention to his work for potential application in BW research. It struck me odd that soon after the WHO published its report on chemical and biological warfare, the WHO Chronicle ceased publishing its "Current Research Projects" column that had appeared almost monthly until 1969.

  • Had the military contractors hushed the WHO Chronicle up?

  • Had the CIA - the counterintelligence arm of the Defense Department - protested the practice of giving CBW secrets away?

"I can't sleep," I said to Jackie who was dozing soundly. "I'm getting up to read."

Gallo Sounded Dreadful in The Band

Driven to satisfy my wakeful curiosity Gallo, I walked to the den, flicked on the reading lamp, and thumbed to the index of 'And The Band Played On.' I then settled back into the recliner and began to read the sections Shilts had written about him. Robert Gallo, I immediately learned, was the son of a hardworking president of a Connecticut metal company. His mother, Shilts simply described as charismatic, extroverted, and clannish. [3]


In 1949, at the age of thirteen, young Robert suffered a "turning point" in his life. His younger sister struggled unsuccessfully to fight leukemia. While she was at the hospital, Gallo met the famous Harvard University cancer expert, Sydney Faber, and other researchers who worked to save his sister from death. This experience sparked Gallo's desire to become a research biologist. [3]


An uncle who taught zoology at the University of Connecticut encouraged young Robert to study at a local Catholic hospital with a grossly cynical research pathologist. Here, as a teen, Gallo performed numerous autopsies. [3] Later, above his mother's garage, while attending Providence College, he slew scores of mice and studied diligently. [3] He graduated from Jefferson Medical College in 1963 and then went on to a two-year postdoctoral residency program at the University of Chicago. Next he became a clinical associate in the Medical Branch of the NIH's National Cancer Institute. Here, assigned to work in the children's leukemia ward at the NIH Hospital, he swore he would "never work with patients again." [3]


Later he was appointed to head the NCI's Cellular Control Mechanisms Section of the Human Tumor Cell Biology Branch, and then in 1972, he became the Chief of Lab Tumor Cell Biology at the NCI. From 1966 to 1970 Gallo earned fame investigating the theory that viruses played a role in leukemia and other forms of cancer. His efforts examined the role of retroviruses and focused on the unique enzyme reverse transcriptase - the chemical that retroviruses used to reproduce themselves in victim cells. Identifying reverse transcriptase aided scientists in detecting retrovirus infections, and represented a significant advance. Yet, few scientists appeared particularly impressed by Gallo's work.

At that time, retroviruses were seen to infect chickens, mice, and cats, but not humans. [4]


Following his discovery of interleukin-II, a natural substance that kept cultured T-cells alive and multiplying, Gallo's,

"career advanced smoothly-until the false alarm of 1976. It appeared that he had discovered a new virus, and proudly, Gallo announced it to the world. When it turned out that an animal virus had contaminated his cell line, and there was no new virus, Gallo's reputation plummeted." [4]


"For all his accolades," Shilts recorded, "Bob Gallo remained a controversial figure in science."

Critics saw him as pompous and arrogant. In scientific politics, "he could be ruthless" and "not always reliable." Gallo himself recognized this criticism reflected "the shadowy side of his character." In his mind however, this pride and arrogance, was required "from the few brave scientists who challenged nature to yield its secrets." [4]


Among his most valuable contributions to the AIDS research effort, Shilts acknowledged, was Gallo's cell culturing and virus typing techniques.

"... By easily being able to grow lymphocytes, Gallo had already overcome a formidable research barrier. Some viruses eluded decent study simply because scientists couldn't figure out how to propagate their host cells." [5]

"Experiments to detect antibodies [blood markers that are used to indicate exposure to a foreign substance or an active infection] to the Human T-cell Leukemia virus, HTLV, were performed easily with reagents sent from Dr. Bob Gallo's lab..." [6]

What troubled me after reading these sections was the realization that he had the cell lines to culture the AIDS virus and the antibodies to detect it before anyone in the world knew what it was. My selected review of 'The Band' quickly drew my attention to another interesting oddity.


Gallo, credited with having identified HTLV-the first isolated retrovirus known to cause leukemia in humans, in 1980, had apparently shown his retrovirus was linked to a Japanese outbreak of leukemia. Apparently, Gallo had first discovered this unique retrovirus; then "searched worldwide for a disease that it might cause." [7]

"That's kind of like playing pin the donkey on the tail," I muttered to myself. "A very unusual approach to medical science."

Allegedly by chance, Gallo stumbled upon Japanese researchers who were searching for T-cell leukemia's viral culprit. Identifying HTLV, forged a major scientific breakthrough in virology. It also disturbed scientists who recognized that such a killer, due to its long incubation period, could spread widely before it caused disease or was even suspected. [7]


Something which Gallo was undoubtedly aware with the NCI's charter membership in the WHO "lentivirus" or "slow" virus research network. Still, scientists remained doubtful about the importance of Gallo's work and the future of retrovirus research altogether. Many stuck to the belief that such germs preyed mainly upon chickens, pigs, and cats. [7] So I suspected Gallo's early work probably involved chickens, pigs, and cats.


That's interesting, I thought as I remembered reading in Shilts's anthology that AIDS patients suffered complications very similar to cats infected with feline leukemia virus:

"Both feline leukemia and this new gay disease were marked by a trail of opportunistic infections that seemed to take advantage of an immune system weakened by a primary infection. In cats, the infection was a leukemia virus that knocked out the cats' immune systems and left them open to a number of cancers. Clearly, some similar virus was doing the same thing to these homosexual men, and they were getting cancer too. Secondly, feline leukemia has a long incubation period; this new disease must have long latency too, which is the only way it was killing people in three cities on both coasts before anybody even knew it existed." [7]

Dr. Don Francis, one of the CDC's chief virologists, Shilts noted, quickly realized this association. Next, he examined the unique affinity the mystery disease had to gays and intravenous drug users, and how similar this was to the distribution of hepatitis B cases. He rapidly concluded,

"Combine these two diseases - feline leukemia and hepatitis - and you have the immune deficiency." [8]

Slow Start Against a Hot New Virus

"More than a year into the epidemic," Shilts reported, "the National lnstitutes of Health had no coordinated AIDS plan. Everything was done on the basis of temporary assignments... At Bob Gallo's lab at the NCI's Division of Tumor Cell Biology," things could have been different, but they were much the same.


Only "about 10 percent of the staff effort went into poking around the devastated lymphocytes of AIDS patients."

This, despite the availability of generous NIH funding. [9] Even more suspicious was the fact that nearly a year after the NCI acknowledged the need to channel its resources to fight the oncoming epidemic, the institute withheld its request for funding proposals, and failed to free available funds for AIDS researchers outside Bethesda. [9]


With all the financial resources at its disposal, and the earnest need, why had they held up everyone's search for the AIDS virus? Furthermore, Shilts wrote that by the end of 1982, "Gallo had had it up to here with this goddamn disease." [9] But that was only about eighteen months after the CDC announced there may be an epidemic brewing. I recalled that it was in June 1981 that the CDC reported in 'Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report' (MMWR) the first cases of what would soon be called GRID - Gay-Related Immune Deficiency disease - the first acronym given AIDS.


It also struck me as odd that Gallo suspected a retrovirus - his career's passion - and then he decided to quit. Shilts wrote that,

"AIDS had always created some discomfort for Gallo, who hailed from traditional Italian - Catholic stock in New Jersey. There was all this dirty talk of 1,100 partners, fist-fucking, and other exotic sexuality; frankly, Gallo found it embarrassing to talk about." [10]

Again, my mind flashed back to Strecker's hypothesis and then questioned - If the NCI began taking over Fort Detrick in 1970 for the expressed purpose of developing defenses against retrovirus attacks and immune deficiency epidemics, then,

  • why did they not respond to this suspected retrovirus crisis over a decade later?

  • was it because the disease was principally striking Africans and homosexuals?

Brilliance, Treachery, or Both

Between 1978 and 1983, Gallo's lab continued to pay little attention to AIDS at the "lethargic NCI." In those days, the NCI's chief retrovirologist allegedly perceived the cause to be more frustrating and distracting than legitimate. [11] During this period of AIDS research, Gallo's behavior appeared at best erratic and at worst contemptuous.


Shilts recorded a series of suspicious interactions in which Gallo all but sabotaged international research efforts to isolate the AIDS retrovirus. One episode involved Dr. Max Essex, a Harvard researcher who had flown in to Atlanta to discuss with Gallo the results of a test he conducted on behalf of the CDC. The CDC had sent a cell line teeming with viruses to Essex to determine if HTLV-I or HTLVII - the viruses Gallo's lab initially discovered and then reported as AIDS suspects - was involved.


To find out, Essex used "monoclonal antibodies" that had come from samples Gallo had previously supplied. But when Gallo learned the group was still using his materials, he blew up.

"How can you collaborate with me and you're doing stuff behind my back?" Gallo exploded. "If you're using my materials on anything, I need to know about it in advance. You need my approval."

Gallo spent the better part of an hour berating Essex and embarrassing CDC doctors.

"This was the ugly side of the National Cancer Institute that the CDC researchers sometimes talked to each other about," Shilts wrote.

The NCI appeared to be "a repository for researchers concerned with little more than personal glory." Gallo's outburst confirmed the "darkest suspicions about the NCI." [12]


Another bizarre tale involved Dr. V.S. Kalyanaraman. Kaly, as he was called, had been recruited by Dr. Don Francis at the CDC to develop a "top-rate retrovirus lab" in late 1983. Kaly had gained fame for his HTLV-II discovery while working under Gallo.

"When cajoling did not persuade Kaly to stay in Bethesda, Gallo resorted to threats: He would not let his researcher take any reagents to any retrovirus from his NCI lab to the CDC. He'd have to culture his own viruses and anti-bodies, Gallo said. Meanwhile, Don Francis heard in early August that Gallo had asked top officials at the National Cancer Institute to stop the CDC from hiring the younger researcher... [When] Gallo knew these efforts would not succeed... he phoned Don Francis directly."

Gallo said there was no need for two government agencies to replicate retrovirus research efforts. When this approach failed, Gallo warned, "There's no way we will collaborate with you." He saw "no evidence of CDC goodwill" toward the NCI. Allegedly, for that reason, he withheld experimental reagents including the antibodies needed to identify AIDS-like viruses.[13]


Later, Gallo voiced his concern to colleagues that the CDC was conspiring to determine the cause of AIDS and then "run without me," fearing he would get no credit. At various times, Gallo warned Francis not to work with other researchers, especially the French.

"Don't form tertiary relationships," Francis was told. "Keep me in a prime relationship with AIDS and cherish the goodwill." [13]

Shilts also reported that Gallo's collaboration with Luc Montagnier was altogether shameless. When Montagnier had allegedly discovered what later turned out to be the AIDS virus, he asked Gallo to supply the antibody needed to examine the retrovirus's dissimilarity to Gallo's HTLV-I.

"Oddly," wrote Shilts, "his antibody had been almost inactivated when it arrived from Dr. Robert Gallo's lab."

Montagnier labored to run the analysis anyway. But that also seemed odd. The report I had read in 'Nature' revealed that Montagnier already had Gallo's HTLV antibody test kit as early as 1982. [14] Shilts also reported that after writing up the results and submitting his paper to Science for publication, Montagnier learned that Gallo was sent the manuscript as "part of the review process."


Gallo criticized the work and informed Montagnier that the acronym he had used to initially name his retrovirus, "RUB," was offensive. The NCI chief retrovirologist then persuaded the French researcher to claim his find was from the HTLV family of viruses that he had discovered. [15]

Collusion at the Top

Jim Goedert was one of many AIDS researchers at the NIH who was foundering for lack of staff and money. In April 1983, he approached the NCI for assistance and was met with a response far less than was expected given. Gallo's widely recognized work with reverse transcriptase.


Shilts wrote:

"[T]he NCI lab where he sent his blood samples... [allegedly] did not have the capabilities to look for reverse transcriptase, the sure marker of retroviral infection. The tests were never run. Life as an AIDS researcher at the National Cancer Institute, he later remarked, meant "chronic frustration." [16]


"On Capitol Hill, Representative Ted Weiss experienced similar frustrations when he attempted to review unclassified NCI and CDC documents. Weiss, assigned by the House Subcommittee on Federal AIDS Funding to review CDC budget records, obtained through less-than-formal channels a National Cancer Institute memo, ordering that before any interviews with congressional investigators, NCI researchers should advise agency officials and "invite" a top administrator to attend."

So much for an independent review, Weiss thought. Another memo, sent by CDC Director William Foege, instructed federal agency chiefs that,

"All material submitted to the Congress must evidence the Department's support of the administration's stated policies." [17]

Change of Heart

Despite his "distaste for the whole subject of AIDS," by April 1983, Gallo could see that "the stakes were being redefined." [4] The French were about to publish their findings as was Max Essex at Harvard.

"So on April 11, 1983, the NCI's Deputy Director Peter Fishinger called a meeting for 4:30 P.M. in the director's conference room. This marked the first gathering of the NCI Task Force on AIDS."

Here, Gallo forcefully acknowledged his concern about the French who had delivered a lymph node for him to study. [4]

"I believe a retrovirus is involved, and we're going to prove it or disprove it within a year," declared Gallo. "We're going to spend a year and nail this down one way or another."

Allegedly then, Fishinger promised Gallo that he could have the full resources of the NCI's elite laboratory in Frederick (Fort Detrick), Maryland. [4]


Montagnier's Alleged Discovery

Once Montagnier learned that the new retrovirus he had isolated was not a leukemia virus, but something completely unique, he chose to rename it LAV, or lymphadenopathy-associated virus, rather than RUB or HTLV...


Shilts chronicled:

"Montagnier was surprised that there wasn't more enthusiasm about the Pasteur Institute's announcement of a new retrovirus. Most scientists wanted to defer final judgment until more research came from Robert Gallo's lab... Gallo was, after all, a far more famed retrovirologist, and he was talking HTLV... Montagnier was gaining more confidence that the Pasteur Institute had indeed discovered the virus that caused AIDS. Still, he was stumped as 'to which family of viruses LAV belonged. If not HTLV, then what?'"

"The chance encounter with another virologist on the Pasteur campus gave Montagnier the final piece to the puzzle. The associate mentioned a family of viruses, primarily found in animals, called lentiviruses. Lenti means slow. These viruses go into the cells, lie dormant for a while, and then burst into frenzied activity. Montagnier had never heard of the family before..." [18]

"What!" I exclaimed, breaking the night's silence. I couldn't believe my eyes. He had never heard of the family of slow viruses before? "That's absolutely ludicrous."

How could he not have heard about the hottest rage in virology during the late 1960s and early 1970s? What I had just read in Shilts's book didn't jive with my knowledge of the scientific reality. Something was up with the French connection that Shilts completely overlooked. Something deeply troubling.


Montagnier allegedly spent the night reading about cattle viruses and was amazed to find LAV had the same morphology, the same proteins, and even the same look under the electron microscope. [18]

The French Francis Fracas

Prior to hailing the discovery of HTLV-III as the AIDS virus, Gallo, representing the NCI, met with Don Francis from the CDC and Dr. Jean-Claude Chermann from the Pasteur Institute to negotiate the claims that would be made to the international press. The discussions, wrote Shilts,

"quickly acquired the mood of delicate arms negotiations among parties who shared only mutual distrust." [19]

Gallo absolutely refused to discuss specifics about his upcoming HTLV-III publication in Francis's presence. Francis was frequently required to leave the room while Chermann and Gallo conferred privately.

"The Pasteur scientists were astonished that one branch of the U.S. government should hold another in such low regard." [19]

Ultimately, Don Francis determined from electron micrographs he had obtained from Europe that Montagnier's and Gallo's retroviruses were the same. In light of the germ's dissimilarity to the HTLV family of retroviruses, he argued in favor of the French naming the virus. Following intense negotiations, however, the naming issue remained unresolved, though the three researchers worked out an agreement to jointly announce the discovery of the AIDS virus by the CDC, NCI and Pasteur.


Shilts then chronicled Gallo's efforts to sabotage this agreement and claim the lion's share of credit for himself. Standing alongside Chermann in the pissoir, he offered,

"We can do this together - just the Pasteur Institute and the NCI," he said. "We don't need the CDC."

Chermann dismissed the proposal. The next morning, during breakfast with Don Francis, Gallo remarked that he would probably get the most credit during the announcement because he maintained the most HTLV-III isolates.


Then he offered Francis the proposal Chermann refused the night before.

"We don't need the Pasteur Institute," he argued. "The CDC and the NCI can announce this ourselves." [19]

On April 23, 1984, the announcement was made by Margaret Heckler, Secretary of the Office of Health and Human Services, that Robert Gallo, essentially unaided by the French and COC, had discovered the AIDS virus.

"The doctors who accompanied Heckler to the podium blanched visibly," Shilts noted, "when she proclaimed that a blood test would be available within six months and a vaccine would be ready for testing within two years."

The blood test had already been available for over two years, I reflected, but I understood why they blanched with the announcement of a vaccine. [20]

The Emperor's New Virus

Ten months later at a prestigious AIDS meeting in New York, Dr. Joseph Sonnabend revealed that Gallo's HTLV-III and Montagnier's LAV were,

"identical... to a degree that would not be anticipated with two independent isolates from the same family."


"Would you be brave enough to voice explicitly the implications of what you're saying here?" Sonnabend was asked by an attending physician.


"No, I wouldn't," Sonnabend replied. "I'm not the right person to be saying that."


"Neither am I," said the other doctor.


"What are you talking about here?" asked an Associated Press reporter.

"Do you know something that you are not saying?"


"They appear to be the same actual isolate," Sonnabend finally admitted. "Or some strange coincidence."


"What are you suggesting?" another person asked. Dr. Mathilde Krim, the conference organizer, chimed in, "Dr. Montagnier felt very appropriately that he was not the person to point this out."


"Nobody's pointed it out quite exactly yet," voiced a frustrated reporter. "It's perhaps a complicated notion for you to understand," said Krim, "but I think you are coming close."

Donald Drake, a veteran science writer for the Philadelphia Inquirer was one of few journalists present who understood the meaning of Sonnabend's remarks.

 "Are you suggesting that Gallo swiped his virus from the French?" Drake queried.


"Or Montagnier swiped Gallo's virus, or we are dealing with a very strange coincidence," replied Sonnabend diplomatically.


"A light bulb goes off," blurted the San Francisco Chronicle panelist.

It was now understood by all in attendance. In virology, it is inconceivable that a genetic variation between two different viruses could be less than 1 percent as was the case with Gallo's HTLV-III and Montagnier's LAV. As Shilts put it,

"That would be like finding two identical snowflakes. It simply didn't happen." [21]

Sonnabend was pointing out the scientific fact that Gallo had simply cloned the virus Montagnier had sent him, then claimed it was his discovery, or Gallo had supplied Montagnier with his virus, and now both were claiming credit for the discovery.

Disharmony in The Band

Even more disturbing than the French-American AIDS fracas, however, was the possibility that Gallo may have indeed discovered the virus, not in 1984, but at least a decade earlier, and the French most likely knew about it. Support for this frightening theory existed, I realized, not only in the suspicious and offensive actions Gallo and the NCI took in trying to prevent others from discovering the AIDS virus. Apparently, Gallo resisted and resented the challenge of identifying the suspected retrovirus as late as December 1982.


Shilts reported with masterful clarity:

"Because the genetic material of retroviruses is made of RNA that must be transcribed to DNA for the construction of viral duplicates, retroviruses need a special enzyme to reproduce - the reverse transcriptase enzyme. By November [1982], Gallo's lab had found evidence of reverse transcriptase in the infected lymphocytes of AIDS patients. This enzyme, in effect, had left the footprints of a retrovirus allover the lymphocytes. But it was impossible to find the damned retrovirus itself [emphasis added] That was the rub."

In addition, Gallo's staff couldn't keep the lymphocytes alive. They died. Any leukemia virus, Gallo knew, caused the proliferation of cells, not their death. People with leukemia have too many white blood cells. When Gallo's staff added lymphocytes from the blood from AIDS patients, however, to lymphocytes in culture, the lymphocytes would die without any proliferation.


The frustration was galling and, by November, Gallo had made what would prove to be among the most important decisions of his career. He gave Up. [16]

This doesn't make any sense, I thought. Gallo discovered interleuken-II. Six months earlier,

"an associate of Gallo said that he had started culturing lymphocytes from a GRID patient in a special culture medium Gallo had developed that contained interleukin-II."

The IL-II, Don Francis recognized was a perfect addition to a growth medium for lymphocytes. "By easily being able to grow lymphocytes, Gallo had already overcome a formidable research barrier," Shilts reported. [11]


Now, I considered, Gallo was quitting because he allegedly couldn't keep infected lymphocytes alive long enough to study them or isolate their attackers. I found both hard to believe.

  • First of all, the French discovered how to keep their lymphocytes alive quite rapidly. Why couldn't Gallo who had far more experience in the field?

  • Second, Shilts noted earlier Margaret Heckler's correct comment that Gallo alone had discovered how to reproduce the virus in large enough quantities to develop a blood test - a test used by the French as early as 1982. [20]

  • Third, to reproduce the virus, he needed the cell lines in which to grow them - lymphocytes which he had apparently kept alive long before the French.

  • Fourth, if the French had isolated AIDS viruses using Gallo's largely inactivated antibodies to tag them, then how come Gallo couldn't find them with his superior-quality reagents?

  • And finally, seasoned researchers just don't give up so easily.

But that was not the worst of it. Following the official United States government announcement that Gallo had discovered the AIDS virus, Shilts wrote:

"How timely was the discovery of the long-sought AIDS virus?... As it turned out, the AIDS virus was not a particularly difficult virus to find. The French took all of three weeks to discover LAV [emphasis added] and had published their first paper on it within four months. This early publication lacked the certainty of a definitive discovery, but the French had enough evidence to assert they had found the cause of AIDS by the summer of 1983, seven or eight months into the research process." [22]

And their efforts had been allegedly delayed by Gallo's inactivated antibodies, I reflected.

"Nor was the NCI research marked by great longevity. Gallo's announcement of forty-eight isolates of HTLV-III came just twelve days past the first anniversary of the April 11, 1983, NCI meeting in which the researcher swore he would "nail down" the cause of AIDS. Meanwhile, at the University of California in San Francisco, it took Dr. Jay Levy about eight months to gather twenty isolates of a virus he called AIDS-associated retrovirus, or ARV, which he too believed to be identical to LAV. Levy's research was hampered by lack of resources and did not begin in earnest until after the arrival of his long-sought flow hood and the release of UC research funds impounded the previous autumn." [22]

And all the discoveries used methods and materials developed, perfected, and supplied by Dr. Gallo, I realized. The next day, I learned that the testing methods and reagents for identifying RNA reverse transcriptase in virus-infected cells as well as antibodies to detect retroviruses, Gallo and coworkers developed more than ten years earlier than had been publicized. [22-27]


Gallo was among the world's champions at quickly identifying reverse transcriptase enzyme and RNA retroviruses. Long before identifying the growth hormone interleuken-II [26,27,29] Gallo and coworkers identified more than a dozen human lymphocyte and RNA tumor virus growth stimulants. [30]


His primary business was allegedly trying to determine the cause of leukemia, a cancer associated with the rapid proliferation of white blood cells. Thus, methods and materials used to increase the reproductive rate of RNA retroviruses and the white blood cells they infected, Gallo and company researched in depth in the early 1970s. It was highly suspicious then that following a decade of successfully doing so, he was suddenly unable to keep RNA retrovirus-infected lymphocytes alive. So, I considered, if this was a lame excuse to quit searching for the easily isolated AIDS virus, then what was his real motivation?


As "most CDC researchers privately believed," [22] Shilts wrote, it is inconceivable that Gallo would not have readily isolated the "true" AIDS virus well before 1982 given his formidable background and resources.

"What delayed the NCI, therefore, was not the difficulty in finding the virus but their reluctance to even look." [22]

With all the glory attached to the earliest discovery of the AIDS virus, what powerful force could have moved the world's citadel of retrovirus research - Gallo and the NCI - away from the challenge that could have been met so handily? There were few plausible explanations - only more horrifying questions. Had Gallo been ashamed of creating the virus years earlier, so he tried to block its discovery, terrified it might be traced to BW research?


I never did get any sleep that night.


[1] Shilts R. And the Band Played On: Politics, People and the AIDS Epidemic. New York: Penguin Books, 1987.

[2] Department of Defense Appropriations For 1970: Hearings Before A Subcommittee of the Committee on Appropriations House of Representatives, Ninety-first Contress, First Session,

H.B. 15090. Part 5, Research. Development. Test and Evaluation. Dept. of the Army. U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C., 1969.

[3] Shilts R. Op. cit., p. 269.

[4] Shilts R. Ibid., p. 270-271.

[5] Shilts R. Ibid., p. 151.

[6] Shilts R. Ibid., p. 163.

[7] Shilts R. Ibid., pp. 73-74.

[8] Shilts R. Ibid., p. 186.

[9] Shilts R. Ibid., p. 173.

[10] Shilts R. Ibid., p. 201-202.

[11] Shilts R. Ibid., p. 151.

[12] Shilts R. Ibid., p. 350.

[13] Shilts R. Ibid., pp. 366-367.

[14] Walgate R. Hepatitis B vaccine: Pasteur Institute in AIDS fracas. Nature 1983;304:104.

[15] Shilts R. Ibid., p. 264.

[16] Shilts R. Ibid., p. 272.

[17] Shilts R. Ibid., p. 354.

[18] Shilts R. Ibid., p. 319

[19] Shilts R. Ibid., p. 444.

[20] Shilts R. Ibid., p. 451.

[21] Shilts R. Ibid., p. 528-29.

[22] Shilts R. Ibid., p. 452.

[23] Gallo RC, Sarin PS, Allen PT, and Newton WA, et al. Reverse transcriptase in type C virus particles of human origin. Nature New Biology 1971;232:10-142.

[24] Talal N and Gallo RC. Antibodies to a DNA:RNA Hybrid in systemic lupus erythematosus measured by a cellulose ester filter radioimmunoassay. Nature New Biology 1972;240:240-242.

[25] Bobrow SN, Smith RG, Reitz MS and Gallo RC. Stimulated normal human lymphocytes contain a ribonuclease-sensitive DNA polymerase distinct from viral RNA-directed DNA polymerase. Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. 1972;69; 11 :3228-3232.

[26] Gallo RC. Reverse transcriptase, the DNA polymerase of oncogenic RNA viruses. Nature 1971;234:194-198.

[27] Gallo RC and Whang-Peng JW. Enhanced transformation of human immunocompetant cells by dibutyryl adenosine cyclic 3'5' -monophosphate. J. National Cancer Institute 1971;47;1:91-94.

[28] Gallo RC, Hecht SM, Whang-Peng J and O'Hopp S. N6_( 2isopentenyl) adenosine: the regulatory effects of a cytokinin and modified nucleoside from tRNA on human lymphocytes. Biochimica Et Biophysica Acta 1982;281 :488-500.

[29] Herrera F, Adamson RH and Gallo RC. Uptake of transfer ribonucleic acid by normal and leukemic cells. Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. 1970;67;4:1943-1950.


[30] Among the human lymphocyte and RNA retrovirus reproductive stimulants Gallo and his co-workers studied were: phytohemagglutinin (a plant protein which makes red blood cells stick together) - see Riddick DH and Gallo RC. The Transfer RNA Methylases of Human Lymphocytes: Induction by PHA in Normal Lymphocytes Blood 1971;37;3:282-292.; isopentenyladenosine (a plant hormone and component of yeast and mammalian tRNA) -- see Gallo RC, Whang-Peng J and Perry S. Isopentenyladenosine Stimulates and Inhibits Mitosis in Human Lymphocytes Treated with Phytohemagglutinin. Science; 1969: 165:400-402; dibutyryl adenosine cyclic 3'5'monophosphate (a chemical messenger and hormone stimulent in cells}--see Gallo RC, Whang-Peng J. Enhanced Transformation of Human Immunocompetent Cells by Dibutyryl Adenosine Cyclic 3',5'-Monophosphate. Journal of the National Cancer Institute. 1971;47;1:91-94; magnesium (an element and dietary component) see Gallo RC, Sarin PS, Allen, PT, Newton WA, Priori ES, Bowen JM and Dmochowski L. Reverse Transcriptase in Type C Virus Particles of Human Origin.


Nature New Biology 1971;232;140-142; Epstein Barr virus (a virus strongly linked to Burkitt's-type lymphoma, cancer of the nasopharynx and infectious mononucleosis) see Fujioka S and Gallo RC. Aminoacyl Transfer RNA Profiles in Human Myeloma Cells. Blood 1971; 38;2:246-252; manganese (a metalic element)-see Smith RG and Gallo RC.


DNA-Dependent DNA Polymerases I and II from Normal Human-Blood Lymphocytes. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 1972; 69; 1 0:2879-2884; adrenal corticosteroids and related steroid hormones including dexamethasone, prednisolone,fludrocortisone, hydrocortisone, corticosterone, cortisone, testosterone, progesterone, and insulin- see Paran M, Gallo RC, Richardson LS and Wu AM. Adrenal Corticosteroids Enhance Production of Type-C Virus Induced by 5-Iodo-2'-Deoxyuridine from Cultured Mouse Fibroblasts. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 1973;70;8:2391-2395.

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