The surfaces of HIV particles exhibit "tufts" of protein 1 July 2004
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Tony Floyd,
Medical Student
Newcastle University

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Re: The surfaces of HIV particles exhibit "tufts" of protein

The Perth Group stated that:

> For more than 15 years we have been told that the “HIV” particles, like all retroviral particles, are spherical and their surfaces are studded with projections, spikes. We have also been told that the spikes are composed of gp120 and are absolutely necessary for infectivity. However, according to a paper published in the Journal of Virology in November this year, there are no spikes on the “HIV” particles.10

One might expect the paper referenced(1) to support at least one of the Perth Groups contentions. Or it could do nothing of the sort as has every other paper I've checked. In fact the researchers found that:

"Purified virus particles spread on glass substrates are roughly spherical, reasonably uniform, though pleomorphic in appearance, and have diameters of about 120 nm. Similar particles are also seen on infected cell surfaces, but morphologies and sizes are considerably more varied, possibly a reflection of the budding process. The surfaces of HIV particles exhibit "tufts" of protein, presumably gp120, which do not physically resemble spikes"

Kuznetsov and colleagues thought that the word 'tufts' was more appropriate than 'spikes'. No mention of any reason to think that tens of thousands of HIV researchers have been examining something non-existent. How do the authors feel about better defining the appearance of a surface protein that has not yet properly been isolated according to some non-existent rules? They made no reference to this paradox.

The researchers were using a relatively new technique known as atomic force microscopy, which can measure surface topography on a scale from angstroms to 100 microns. If all HIV literature was edited such that all references to 'spikes' was corrected to 'tufts' would that assuage the denialists?


(1) Kuznetsov YG, Victoria JG, Robinson WE Jr, McPherson A. Atomic force microscopy investigation of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and HIV-infected lymphocytes. J Virol. 2003 Nov;77(22):11896-909. PMID: 14581526 ABSTRACT

Competing interests: None declared