Re: A plea to Eleni Papadopulos-Eleopulos 18 August 2003
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Jeffrey L Evans,
Redstone, Colorado 81623

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Re: Re: A plea to Eleni Papadopulos-Eleopulos

>Please read the references I have provided regarding HPV. The most divergent isolates of HPV differ by 50% or more. According to your arguments HPV and the influenza virus do not exist. Chris Noble

I once suggested to Chris Noble that nature doesn't much care what cataloging systems humans devise, so whether two sequences represent the same entity is entirely up to the definition we choose to apply. I'm not at all sure he understood what I meant. It was interesting to me that shortly thereafter, Brian Foley expressed a similar thought to me, though certainly not for the purpose of agreeing with me in my discussion with Noble:

"Terms such as "species", "subtype", "group", "serotype", etc... are human labels put on biological entities which may or may not be suited to categorization by convenient labeling or grouping strategies. As one example, the feline leukemia virus has a name very similar to the bovine leukemia virus, but these two viruses are not closely related to one another. The feline leukemia virus is related to murine leukemia virus and the human endogenous retrovirus named HERV.S71, while the bovine leukemia virus is related to the primate T-cell leukemia viruses (STLV, HTLV-I and HTLV-II). This is a common example of viruses being named by the disease they cause, long before DNA sequencing and/or serological methods were able to determine their exact degree of relatedness. Likewise, human immunodeficiency viruses were named because they were observed to be epidemiologically linked to cases of human immunodeficiency: people with immunodeficiency characterized by a CD4:CD8 T-cell ratio inversion were found to be infected with these viruses. HIV- 1 was observed on several continents, while HIV-2 was initially only found in western Africa. Both "types" of human immunodeficiency virus have now been subdivided: HIV-1 into "groups, subtypes and circulating intersubtype recombinant forms"; HIV-2 into "subtypes". The "subtypes" of HIV-2 are biologically equivalent to the "groups" of HIV-1: each is most likely the result of an independent transfer or transfers from the natural non-human simian host, to humans. The natural host of HIV-1 is most likely chimpanzees, and the natural host of HIV-2 is certainly sooty mangabeys." -Brian 7/17/2001

Having grown somewhat tired of this exchange (HPV v. HIV) at the time, I told Mr. Foley that I thought all such discussions should at least confine themselves to discussing those "viruses" with the capacity to insert themselves into the human genome. I admit it was just a back door method (having been unsuccesful with more direct enquiry) to see if I could obtain an example of any other such virion beyond what I consider to be the equally speculative "lentivirus". It was not to be - I'm still without an example of another genome-insinuating, exogenous, infectious entity.

So what is it that makes both HIV and HPV "viruses"? Human convention. Why does that matter to this discussion? The controversy ought to relate to, or perhaps be grounded on, the question of whether the full range of complex functional attributes ascribed to HIV are possible with an entity of such unstable composition and elusive identity. How does HIV maintain its essential characteristics while shedding so much of its inherent structure? Thus my question about similar entities with the ability to insert themselves into the genome. Apples to Apples, anyone?

In contrast, the fact that DNA viruses, charged with maintaining a far less complex set of actions, can cause similar symptoms, and therefore be bestowed the same name, seems not to provide a particularly valid comparative basis for establishing nucleotide integrity.

Competing interests:   None declared