Infectious Disease Postdoc/Clinician
Department of Pediatrics, University Hospital, Syracuse NY
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This topic has been replied to in another debate: perhaps Mr Russel chose to ignore it?
The mycoplasma story is a classic among those claiming that HIV is harmless. A very little research shows that the cell line in question (CEM) was a mixed lineage line, containing CD4+ and CD4- cells. In the prescence of HIV all the CD4+ cells died, but the CD4- cells grew to replace them . When co-infected with the mycoplasma, CD4+ and CD4- cells died non-selectively. Montagnier was unaware of this, since the Canadian work had not yet been done. I am not aware of any quotes by Montagnier suggesting a role of Mycoplasma in more recent years. It would after all be rather easier for doctors and patients alike if a simple course of doxycycline could cure AIDS.
The use of antibiotics in this case, coupled with proper analysis of the cell line, actually proves that HIV neatly kills CD4+ cells in vitro. As with all anti-HIV arguments, if one follows the paper trial one finds the rebuttal in short order.
If HIV is a harmless endogenous phenomenon and the drugs are toxic, can Mr Russell explain the fact that HIV seropositivity (i.e. infection) produces disruption of lymph node architecture , that is restored, along with CD4 T cells, once antiretrovirals are administered ? Can he explain why withdrawal of the drugs results in the reappearance of lymph node damage and a drop in CD4 T helper cells? 
None of these are explained by an endogenous epiphenomenon, and in fact Mr Russell has not presented any evidence whatsoever that such a phenomenon is (a) possible and (b) where it comes from. If he finds gene sequences scattered throughout the human DNA that could potentially recombine to form the HIV genome he should perhaps let us know.
Nick Bennett firstname.lastname@example.org
1. Yelle et al Arch Virol 1994;139(1-2):155-72 "Analysis of long- term viral expression in CEM cells persistently infected with non syncytium-inducing HIV-1 strains."
2. Zhang et al. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 1999, 96:5169±5172. "Reversibility of the pathological changes in the follicular dendritic cell network with treatment of HIV-1 infection.
3. Orenstein JM et al. AIDS 1999, 13:2219±2229. "Lymph node architecture preceding and following 6 months of potent antiviral therapy: follicular hyperplasia persists in parallel with p24 antigen. Restoration after involution and CD4 cell depletion in an AIDS patient.
4. Orenstein et al AIDS. 2000 Aug 18;14(12):1709-15. "Rapid activation of lymph nodes and mononuclear cell HIV expression upon interrupting highly active antiretroviral therapy in patients after prolonged viral suppression."
Competing interests: None declared