The HTV has been detected with remarkable frequency in cell lines derived from Burkitt's lymphoma, leukemic tissues, healthy donors, and patients with a variety of diseases; and blood serum surveys have shown that infections by the virus, or a close relative, are frequent and world-wide. However, except for the fact that all Burkitt's tumor patients studied have high levels of antibodies to HTV antigens, no suggestive relationship of the virus to a known disease has been previously recorded.
In the opinion of some virologists, a causative association with "mono" would not make HTV any less suspect as a cause of Burkitt's lymphoma or leukemia. Infection by this virus may result in a broad range of individual responses. At one end of the scale there may be no illness, simply the appearance of a low level of antibodies in the blood in response to infection. Next there may be a range of minor illnesses, which go largely unnoticed. The range of responses might then progress to recognizable infectious mononucleosis, either mild or severe. Finally, there may be the very rare but extreme response which results in leukemia or lymphoma.
The recently completed Emergency Virus Isolation Facility will function both as a virus research laboratory and a testing area for new safety devices and techniques.
Studies testing this hypothesis are planned or under way. The recent success of scientists at Baylor University College of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health in establishing in long-term culture lymphocytes from mononucleosis patients provides a new tool for investigating a possible relationship between this disease and some forms of cancer.
As the virus-cancer research pace has quickened, it has become quite clear that certain dangers are inherent in this work. Under the leadership of the National Cancer Institute, an educational and developmental program is in progress aimed at protecting personnel and experiments from inadvertent exposure to suspect or known cancer viruses. A laboratory on wheels, named the Biohazard Containment Mobile Laboratory, was designed and built as a prototype facility by the Dow Chemical Company under contract to the Institute. It is presently being used by Institute virologists and will be made available to other research institutions cooperating in cancer virus programs.
A new laboratory building, the Emergency Virus Isolation Facility, incorporating the latest biohazards protective procedures, was completed late this year on the grounds of the National Institutes of Health. It will not only house virus-cancer experiments, but will also enable sanitary engineers and others to test new safety techniques and devices.