Christopher J Noble,
Send response to journal:
Christopher Tyler writes: "The implication has been that mainstream HIV/AIDS research is pristine because it has been through this process."
This is a mischaracterisation of my words. I have never stated that peer-review is perfect. It is not. However, it is extremely successful at weeding out a large proportion of pseudoscience.
Christopher Tyler tries to make us believe that the whole foundation of HIV/AIDS science relies on a single press conference. This is not true. HIV/AIDS science is based not only on the original publications of Gallo and Montagnier but also on the thousands of papers that have followed. Gallo's papers were already in press at the time of the press conference.
The reasons for the press conference have been outlined by Gallo: "However, a leak from a freelance journalist prompted Margaret Heckler, secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHSS), to call an urgent press conference to which I was summoned home to attend, and from which, very regrettably, the French group was excluded." (1)
The so-called dissidents like to claim that this press conference was the decisive factor in AIDS research. This claim has no basis in fact. There were papers published before this press conference providing evidence that a retrovirus was involved in AIDS and there are thousands of papers published afterwards confirming this.
The nature of the scientific misconduct that Christopher Tyler refers to is also alluded to by Gallo: " In fact, our IIIB isolate was accidentally contaminated with a sample sent to us by Montagnier."
I will not judge how accidental or knowlegable this contamination was but will focus rather on how it is now known that this contamination occured. In fact, it is from genetic sequencing of these isolates that we have evidence of the contamination. (2)
It is indeed ironic that so-called dissidents are so keen on discrediting genetic sequencing studies as evidence of the existence of HIV but are so ready to jump on studies using the same techniques to demonstrate that two HIV isolates are essentially the same strain and originated from the same source. The so-called dissidents want to have their cake and eat it too. They want to claim that Gallo stole Montagnier's HIV and at the same time claim that HIV does not exist.
If PCR amplification is totally non-specific or if the sequences that are amplified are just endogenous retroviruses, as the Perth Group likes to claim, then there can be no evidence that Gallo's and Montagnier's isolates were identical, or that Gallo stole Montagnier's isolate, or that he covered anything up.
(1) Gallo RC, Science 298 (2002) 1728-1730.
(2) S. Wain-Hobson et al., Science 252, 961 (1991) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/qu ery.fcgi?cmd=retrieve&db=pubmed&l ist_uids=2035026&dopt=Abstract
Competing interests: None declared