Although serologic assays are capable of identifying prior exposure to human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), they cannot alone demonstrate whether an individual is currently harboring the virus. The first method used to ascertain if a blood specimen contained HIV was co-cultivation with stimulated primary human lymphocytes or continuous human T cell lines and monitoring the culture supernatants for the presence of reverse transcriptase. Although virus isolation has proved to be a poor diagnostic tool because of its relative insensitivity, high costs, and lengthy time requirements, culture has served as the standard by which all other diagnostic tests have been judged and established. Furthermore, virus culture remains the steadfast route by which new variants are identified, isolated, and initially characterized. The emphasis of this chapter is on delineation of the impact of a number of related fields of study—including epidemiology, applied serology, classic viral morphology, and molecular virology—on the culture and characterization of HIV specimens. In doing so we point out both advantages and disadvantage of the current approaches to virus isolation.
KeywordsHuman Immunodeficiency Virus Human Immunodeficiency Virus Type Human Immunodeficiency Virus Infection Acquire Immune Deficiency Syndrome Human Immunodeficiency Virus Replication
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