Retroviruses are viruses whose genomes consist of RNA and whose genes can be incorporated into host cells’ DNA. Viruses usually only stay in the body for a few days; however, the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) never goes away.

HIV attacks the immune system and causes it to become deficient and not work properly. All viruses must infect living cells to reproduce. HIV does this by taking over certain immune system cells–known as CD4 cells, or T cells–that are meant to defend the body. Infected cells reproduce rapidly, do not work well, and die fast. Over time, the loss of CD4 cells weakens the immune system, making it extremely hard for the body to remain healthy.

Françoise Barré-Sinoussi is a virologist at the Institut Pasteur in Paris, and is responsible for the discovery of this devastating disease. In 1983, Françoise Barré-Sinoussi and Luc Montaigner discovered a retrovirus in patients with swollen lymph glands that attacked lymphocytes. This retrovirus was identified as HIV, and proved to be the cause of the Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS). This discovery has been crucial in radically improving treatment plans for those suffering from AIDS.

Françoise Barré-Sinoussi states that she comes from a humble background and was forced to choose the shortest and cheapest education available to her. She is an incredible example of how hard work, dedication, passion, and resilience can transform one’s life and ultimately contribute the future of society.

Women Pioneers in Medicine

Françoise Barré-Sinoussi — Facts


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