Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. 8 June 2004
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Brian T Foley,
HIV Researcher
Los Alamos National Lab, Los Alamos, NM 87545

Send response to journal:
Re: Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

The Perth group wrote:
It is clear that the evidence given in the Fisher et al study does not demonstrate the existence of an “HIV-1 infectious molecular clone” as defined by Brian Foley: “The clone must produce virus particles that are identical by serology, morphology, protein sequences, RFLP, Southern blotting, etc. to the parental virus, and the particles must also be infectious. If a cloned viral genome does not meet these criteria, it is not an INFECTIOUS molecular clone of the virus, be it HIV-1 or any other virus” (his emphasis). (See Brian Foley’s rapid response “Re: Re-phrasing our two questions to Brian Foley”, 11th May 2004)

I did not state that ALL of those forms of evidence must be researched and described in each and every paper describing a clone. If I had meant that all lines of evidence must be researched and presented, then I would not have used the abbreviation “etc.” which means that there are many other lines of evidence that any infectious molecular clone would also meet IF it were studied.

If an infectious molecular clone of HIV-1 M group subtype B virus is used to produce viral particles and those particles are studied by EM, the particles should have the morphology of HIV-1 M group subtype B viruses produced from other clones, or seen directly in biopsied tissues of HIV-infected people. This is not to say that the particles MUST be observed in order to know that the clone is infectious.

If I say that humans have two arms two legs, hair on some body parts but not “fur” like many other mammals, etc… It does not mean that if we can find one human with an amputated leg, that humans do not exist. Nor does it mean that if a human calls you on the phone to chat, you have to seriously question whether you are talking to a human because you cannot see both arms, etc…

Nobody will ever publish a single paper in a scientific journal that describes all experiments that can ever possibly be done on a virus. Typically each paper in a peer-reviewed scientific journal makes just one point or a very few related points. It used to be common to publish a whole series of papers which in total just reported cloning a single gene. With modern technologies, cloning is much simpler, so few papers today even report on the details of the methods used.

As just one example, the 1973 Spectra paper (1) that the Perth group gets all excited about does not present any evidence that the virus mixture they were working with was in fact the Moloney-MSV plus Moloney-MuLV mix. They present no serology, no Southern blots, no DNA sequence information, no proof that the virus mix causes tumors, no Western blots showing that the viruses produce proteins of the expected sizes. The ONLY evidence they present is reverse transcriptase activity (and even with that, they don’t show that it is retroviral RT which uses Mg2+ rather than Mn2+), and photos of little round dots which they claim are EMs from gradient-enriched virus fractions. This does not mean that we all have to seriously doubt that Sinoussi et al were in fact working with this particular virus mix. It only means that if we want to know more about the virus, we need to look in their METHODS section to see if we can find out more. If we believe there is evidence of fraud, or if we are just curious if we can reproduce their results, we can ask Sinoussi et al for samples of their viruses or cell lines which produce them.

Although the 1973 Spectra paper does not describe every detail of the Moloney-MSV plus Moloney-MuLV mix of viruses, there are many other papers that do describe other aspects of this mixture, and they support the research done by Sinoussi et al, rather than making us suspect that the Sinoussi paper was fraudulent.

If the Perth group has any evidence that any of the infectious molecular clones of HIV-1 that have been described are fraudulent, they should pursue that claim in a serious manner, rather than "debating" in unmoderated internet forums or trying to gain political support for their ideas. REFERENCES:

1: Sinoussi F, Mendiola L, Chermann JC, Jasmin C, Raynaud M.
Purification and Partial Differentiation of the Particles of Murine
Sarcoma Virus (M. MSV) According to their Sedimentation Rates in
Sucrose Density Gradients.
Spectra 4:237-243 (1973)

Competing interests: None declared