It has been proposed that XMRV, the initialism for Xenotropic Murine Leukemia Virus-Related Virus be changed to HGRV. HGRV stands for Human Gamma Retro Virus. If one is currently XMRV positive, their disease is known as XAND which stands for XMRV Associated Neuroimmune Disease. If one is HGRV positive, their disease may be known as HGRAD. This is the initialism for Human Gamma Retrovirus Associated Disease.
Rich Van Konynenburg recently received a message from Dr. Joe Burrascano, a leading authority on tick-borne diseases. The message Dr Burrascano wrote to Rich was as follows:
“Hello all from Dr. B.
I just returned from the first official scientific symposium of the Whittemore-Peterson Institute on the topic of XMRV. We formed a working group to be in constant touch and we plan to meet regularly because advances are coming so rapidly.
Big news that everyone should know and adopt is that we have proposed a name change for the virus.
This virus is a human, not mouse virus, and it is the first and so far only gamma-retrovirus known to infect people. Also, it is clearly not an “endogenous” retrovirus (one that is present in all genomes due to ancient infection). Because of all of this, and because of the desire to begin on the right track:
• The new name of the virus is HGRV – Human Gamma Retro Virus.
• The illness caused by this infection is named HGRAD – Human Gamma Retrovirus Associated Disease.
We plan to announce this at the upcoming NIH retroviral conference this September.
Definitely stay tuned – the volume of new and important information about this virus and its disease associations is increasing rapidly and in my opinion should be a concern to every patient with chronic neuro-immune diseases, including those with chronic Lyme.
Joseph J. Burrascano Jr. M.D.
Water Mill, NY, USA”
The above article can be found here: http://www.prohealth.com/library/showarticle.cfm?libid=15543&utm_source=SiteTracking&utm_medium=SiteTracking&utm_campaign=home_LatestNews
Negative Consequences of Calling XMRV, HGRV
If HGRV does replace XMRV and HGRAD does replace XAND, there are some potentially negative consequences. The term HGRAD is a mixture of both an initialism (HG) and an acronym (RAD.) This means one likely pronunciation of HGRAD will be HG RAD (H and G pronounced as letters and the word “rad” following the H and G. Calling a disease “rad” a colloquial term and synonym for awesome or cool seems inappropriate. Another possible pronunciation of HGRAD is “H- GRAD.”
If HGRAD is pronounced as only an acronym then it will be called “Hagrid.” Hagrid is the half-giant gamekeeper from the popular Harry Potter empire. If HGRAD is pronounced as an acronym, it may also be called “Haggard.” Haggard has several definitions, one of which is “tiredness.” Millions of CFS patients around the world have suffered due to naming the illness the misnomer: “Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.” The layman translates “Chronic Fatigue Syndrome” literally to “always tired” which completely undermines the severity of the illness. A study showed that if patients present to a physician with the illness named “Chronic Fatigue Syndrome,” the physician didn’t believe their illness was very severe. If the patients presented to the same physician and just presented their symptoms (not revealing the name CFS) the physician deemed their illness more severe. Also a survey of medical trainees showed that they considered “Chronic Fatigue Syndrome” to be less severe than “myalgic encephalopathy.” These are not isolated example of the harm that the name CFS has brought to patients.
The term XMRV encompasses the word “Leukemia” which to the layman highlights the severity of the illness. The term XAND contains the word “Neuroimmune” which emphasises the seriousness of the disease. The term “Human Gamma Retro Virus” does not contain any words that can be interpreted as showing the layman the true disabling nature of the illness.
The initialism HGRV uses the term retrovirus as two distinct words: Retro Virus. This contrasts the disease name HGRAD which initialises retrovirus as a single word. My understanding is that retrovirus is a single word hence fragmenting the term into Retro Virus may be erroneous.
Positives Consequences of calling XMRV, HGRV
XMRV is the third known infectious human retrovirus after HTLV and HIV. The nomenclature of infectious human retroviruses to date have the term “human” as a prefix. It therefore seems appropriate to have the term “human” as a prefix for this retrovirus, which the name HGRV accommodates. Also the disease name XMRV contains the word Murine, which means “mouse.” This does not adequately explain the infectious transmission of this retrovirus to humans.
The disease XMRV contains the words “virus-related virus.” This is not a very scientific term and more of a general term. Science likes to be precise in classifications and calling something “related” is not precise. It seems more appropriate to determine if a distinctive new classification branch is required or whether it can definitely be contained within the existing classification branch. A further reason that HGRV is preferable to XMRV involves the term retrovirus as opposed to virus. Although virus is the general classification term, retrovirus is a more accurate classification term. Several laymen have commented on XMRV being a run-of-the-mill standard virus like a cold. This misconception has arisen partly due to the word “virus” in the name of XMRV. Calling the disease retrovirus in the name, like HGRV does, shows to the layman that the disease is distinctive from a standard virus like a cold.
The term XAND, has potentially negative connotations, depending on how the term in pronounced. If it is pronounced as an acronym it sounds like “sand.” If it pronounced as a mixture of initialism (X) and anagram (AND) it sounds like “X” the letter following by “and” the word. Telling someone you have “X and” may results in confusion, finishing the sentence with a conjunction. There may be further reasons for the name change to HGRV that are unbeknownst to me. I speculate that these may involve the signalling of a fresh slate for research into the disease and funding for the disease.
Counter Arguments to the Positives and Negatives
I will now present some counter arguments to the positive and negative reasons I have mentioned above. Many of the arguments that I have presented are contingent upon an appeal to the layman’s interpretation of the disease name. The layman’s literal interpretation of the disease name may be superseded by the seriousness of the illness that the media and government may present. It is also questionable as to whether XMRV/HGRV positive patients want their disease to be known as serious. A positive to the disease being considered serious may be the more appropriate and caring treatment from friends, family and physicians alike. This would be a stark contrast to the current paradigm in which CFS is not widely considered serious. A negative to the disease being considered serious involve the infectious nature of the illness. This may entail a general public fear of catching the illness and hence an isolation of disease positive patients.
The term HGRAD overcomes some of the etymological issues of similarly sounding terms if it is pronounced as an entire initialism, H-G-R-A-D.
History of Naming HIV and AIDS
AIDS was originally named GRID, Gay Related Immune Deficiency. Once it was realized that the disease did not only affect homosexual men, the CDC changed the name to AIDS, Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome.
Robert Gallo, one of the co-discoverers of the fact that HIV infects AIDS patients, claimed that the virus (HIV) was similar in shape to other HTLVs. He called HIV, HTLV- III. Luc Montagnier, the other co-discoverer of the fact that HIV infects AIDS patients, determined that HIV was different, immunologically to HTLV and called the retrovirus LAV, Lymphadenopathy-Associated Virus. The International Committee of Taxonomy of Viruses replaced HTLV-III and LAV with the name HIV, Human Immunodeficiency Virus. This is relevant to XMRV/HGRV as it possible a group with higher nomenclature authority may change the name of the retrovirus again.
HGRV Already Taken?
The initialism HGRV is already in use medically. HGRV stands for Human Gastric Residual Volume. This is not a common medical expression as this term is mentioned less than 4000 times on the internet according to a Google search.
The initialism HGRV is also already used to name a separate virus. This virus is a botanical virus called Hibiscus Green Ringspot Virus. This is a rarely documented virus that is mentioned less than 30 times on the internet according to Google. Both of these uses of HGRV are uncommon meaning that there will most likely not be any confusion with HGRV the retrovirus if is enters the medical lexicon
Dr. Burrascano’s comments are ambiguous regarding whether XMRV will definitely be changed to HGRV or if this is only a proposal. The name HGRAD may potentially lead to a misconception about the disease depending on how the term is pronounced. Almost any name is better than Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and I am personally not too worried about the name HGRV as it is not a misnomer. I am more concerned about the disease name HGRAD. Ultimately the name is not that important as long as the researchers are studying the same retrovirus.
I’d like to finish with a quote by Gilbert Newton Lewis, “There is always the danger in scientific work that some word or phrase will be used by different authors to express so many ideas and surmises that, unless redefined, it loses all real significance.” This is what happened with the term ‘Chronic Fatigue Syndrome’ but will not happen again with this retrovirus.