RE: Politics vs. Science 5 September 2003
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Brian T Foley,
HIV researcher
Los Alaomos National Lab, Los Alamos, NM 87545 USA

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Re: RE: Politics vs. Science

The Perth group wrote:
"What we have been saying is that genomic variations of up to 40% are said to code for one and the same virus, "HIV-1".

The HIV-1 M group of viruses and the HIV-1 O group of viruses are not "one and the same thing". Calling them "one and the same thing" just because they have been named "HIV-1" and because they infect CD4+ T-cells of primates and cause AIDS in humans, is analogous to calling mice, elephants and cats "one and the same thing" because they have been named "mammals" and because they produce live young , feed them milk and breath air.

The HIV-1 M, N and O groups of viruses do have some things in common, just as all mammals do, but they also have many important differences.

The perth group wrote:
"So we again ask if Brian Foley would provide us with references which prove that the "HIV" sequences originated from a unique infectious retroviral particle, HIV."

What part of "infectious molecular clone" do you fail to understand? We have been over this a few times before, already. If you have a segment of DNA that produces infectious viral particles it is clear that this segment of DNA contains a viral genome. When the segment of DNA is sequenced and found to contain Gag, Pol and Env genes it is extremely clear that the viral genome is a retroviral genome. If there was any question about this, then DNA evidence could never be used in courts of law; the blood stains found at a crime scene could be beef blood from a steak that was cut up. You don't have to "isolate" a human in order to tell whether the blood came from a human, you only need to sequence it.

The Perth group is being blatantly dishonest to claim that they are the world's authority on virology, epidemiology and genetics and that if their impossible rules are not followed then the virus might not exist. No virus has ever been "isolated" and studied in such a way as to meet all of the Perth group's requirements. In fact the Perth group knows that lentiviruses are asymetrical and that is why they keep parroting the requirement that preparations of the virus must show that "No apparent differences in physical appearance could be discerned". It has always been clear that electron micrographs of all lentiviruses show differences because some of the virion particles are viewed end-on and some are viewed from the side in any micrograph.

The Perth group writes:
"...we have been asking for help and are willing to be educated. "

When in fact they have been repeatedly informed that their criteria for isolation/purification of retroviruses are not valid, and have never been carried out on any virus. They do not present themselves as students, willing to learn about virology and epidemiology, but as "experts" who join with others to advise the government of South Africa not just to study HIV research, but to declare HIV research completely invalid until their impossible rules for isolation/purification have been met.

They do not claim that they are ignorant of virology and ask virologists to explain how it is, exactly, that we study viruses using molecular biological techniques. Instead they claim that they have the only valid technique and until all of their conditions are met the virus has not been "proven" to exist. They then go on to claim that until the virus is proven to exist by their exact criteria and methods, that no other tests such as serological tests or molecular biology can be used to study the virus.

In response to my observation that the relative purity of HIV-1 viral particles ranged from low to high in the Bess paper: {Virology 230(1):134-144 (1997)}, The Perth group writes:
"In addition, the CEM-SS cells contains low amounts of 2-M proteins and Implicitly, microvesicles purified from cell lines such as CEM-SS and MOLT-3 that do not produce HLA-DR did not contain any HLA-DR. (1) This fact alone will result in a high ratio even if the purity is extremely low. "

This is a clever attempt to mislead readers into thinking that the ratio I remarked on, of 150:1 or more than 99% "purity" might have been from one of these cell lines that do not produce HLA DR. I encourage anyone who wants to know more to read the Bess paper itself, and not trust the Perth group's "spin" on what it says.

If you visit the Perth group website at:

you find that they are not presenting data, such as interviews with dozens of AIDS patients who all claim they could not have been infected with a virus, or data showing that the epidemiology of AIDS fits with their theory that AIDS cannot be sexually transmitted and is due instead to "oxidative stress". Instead you find their clever rhetoric, mostly based on the idea that if the virus has not been isolated/purified by their exact criteria then all other research on HIV and SIV is invalid.

For example, in their slide show and accompanying text:
The Perth Group presentation to the Presidential HIV/AIDS Panel Johannesberg 3rd and 4th of July 2000 (Powerpoint file)
Text of The Perth Group presentation to the Presidential HIV/AIDS Panel Johannesberg 3rd and 4th of July 2000

They state this about the figure 1 of the Bess paper:
"The infected cultures originate from AIDS patients who are highly oxidised and these cultures are chemically stimulated."

In fact, the MN isolate of HIV-1 subtype B used by Bess et al. was isolated in 1984 from a young boy. Does the Perth group have information about how this boy became "highly oxidised", and how that oxidised property is able to be passed from culture to culture and even re-cloned?

Competing interests:   None declared