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Robert Gallo - At the Center of the History of HIV

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Updated May 25, 2009

Robert Gallo MD

Robert Gallo MD

The Institute of Human Virology

Identifying a Killer:

The history of HIV is a complex one. Twenty years ago, little was known about the mysterious illness that was killing thousands of people. The history of HIV tells us that scientists struggled for a cause and even more important a solution. Then an American scientist named Robert Gallo co-discovered a virus later known as HIV that seemed to be the culprit. His research and findings opened the door to a new field of medicine and science dedicated to finding answers to the epidemic of the 20th. century - HIV and AIDS.

Key Discoveries:

In the mids 80's, Gallo and his team co-discovered the virus they believed to be responsible for the killer disease known as AIDS. In addition, Gallo and his team developed a test that identified the virus in humans - the HIV antibody blood test. This test makes possible the early identification of infected people, allowing for early and better treatment resulting in longer life expectancies for those living with HIV.

Gallo's work has not been limited to HIV however. Prior to the epidemic, Gallo was first to identified a human retrovirus called HTLV or human luekemia virus - one of the few known viruses to cause cancer in humans. Other key contributions include the discovery of Interleukin-2, a growth regulating substance sometimes used in the treatment of HIV and cancer as well as identifying HHV-6, the human herpes virus that some experts believe to be linked to multiple sclerosis.

Today, Gallo continues his research efforts as founder and director of The Institute of Human Virology at the University of Maryland.

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