Re: Where is the virus? 10 July 2004
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Nicholas Bennett,
Infectious Disease Postdoc/Clinician
Department of Pediatrics, University Hospital, Syracuse NY

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Re: Re: Where is the virus?

In their recent letter the Perth Group ask:

"Since: (a) many AIDS patients are reported as having 10^6 particles/ml;

(b) EM detection of viral particles in plasma with concentration lower than 10^6 per ml is possible; why have these particles never been found in plasma of HIV positive or AIDS patients?"

As Hanz Gelderblom has said that he would require around 10^10 particles per ml, why do the Perth Group insist on it being possible with 10,000 fold less virus? Could there be a better example of the Perth Group selectively quoting other peoples' statements? Are they more willing to accept a general statement over one specific to the question they want answered, just because the specific answer doesn't suit their agenda? I'm amazed at the Perth Group's consisitency in jumping to conclusions "they are not there to be found" instead of entertaining the even slightly plausible option of "maybe it's difficult to find them in this way, and we need to use another method". Most basic undergraduate courses run classes in journal analysis and critique. As the ex-chairman of the Cambridge University Department of Medicine Infectious Disease journal club, I'd be happy to provide them with a few pointers.

The whole notion of AIDS as an infectious disease doesn't depend at all on there being isolateable infectious HIV from the bloodstream! Such dogmatic insistence merely highlights the Perth Group's collective ignorance of epidemiology and basic molecular biology.

In any case, HIV can certainly be detected, through well established conventional virological methods such as PCR and culture (is there a better demonstration of infectiousness?), in practically 100% of all those serologically exposed to HIV (i.e. infected by the current understanding).

(1) Jackson et al J Clinical Mole Bio 1988 pp1418-1418

AIDS 57 out of 57 culture positive; Aids Related Complex (ARC, also known as pre-AIDS) 15 out of 15 positive; Asymptomatic HIV+ 69 out of 70 positive; Seronegative 0 out of 30 positive.

(2) Jackson et al J Clinical Mole Bio 1990 pp 16-19

AIDS 56/56 positive in culture AND PCR; ARC 87/88 positive ditto; Asymptomatic 259/265 positive ditto, all were positive by culture or PCR seperately; Seronegative 0/131 positive for culture OR PCR

(3) Ho et al NEJM 1989 321:pp 1621-1625

AIDS 20/20 positive; ARC 18/18 positive; Asymptomatic 16/16 positive; seronegative 0/22 positive

I will point out before the PG say something to incriminate themselves, that the seronegative controls were matched by risk factors as far as I recall (it was 4 years ago when I last debated this aspect). Such silly ideas as "drug use" causing antibodies to HIV being produced are therefore controlled in any case. This also highlights the safety and reproducibility of using serology as a surrogate marker for HIV infection. The culture-negatives are easily explained as it is well known (at least, among those of us who actually work in the field) that the culturability of HIV varies with time, being very high initially, then dropping as the immune response kicks in, then rising towards the end. Serial follow-up of seropositives who don't grow HIV has been shown to result in HIV cultures appearing as the infection progresses and viral load rises. This is common sense: the less virus, the harder it is to find!

Cultured HIV can then be EM'd and sequenced/cloned far more easily. Why do the Perth Group not accept these secondary isolations of HIV? After all, where do they think this virus came from? The culture line??! Please. Asking for one particular method (EM of a blood isolate) to supercede all these other lines of evidence, is simply ridiculous. In addition, these results highlight the specificity of culture and PCR in detecting HIV (0 out of 183 seronegatives with detectable HIV, 597 out of 605 seropositives with detectable HIV, and 100% of those with AIDS).

I also notice the conspicuous abscence of Perth Group rebuttal to my criticisms of their RT argument: are they therefore willing to admit that Montagnier was successful in showing that RT and not any other enzyme was detected as banding at 1.16g/ml? Will they say whether this was due to a simple mis-reading of the original paper by Montagnier, a genuine mistake, or a deliberate omission to support their case? The statement about it being "impossible" to distinguish RT from a DNA polymerase when not only does a chemical exist (actinomycin D) but Montagnier actually performed this control, just demonstrates the Perth Group's inability to read the literature as well as their ignorance of molecular biology. Heaven forbid it was a deliberate attempt to mislead...

Do they believe that Hepatitis C exists? Do they have another explanation for the majority cause of liver transplantation in the US? Hep C STILL doesn't have a decent culture system established...does this mean it doesn't exist (as per Koch's Postulates)? Can they see the idiosyncracies in their understanding and beliefs of HIV? It has no more, or fewer, problems than any other virus - and never has. Duesberg's original detractions were stupendous in their ignorance of common viruses such as Herpes Simplex and Hepatitis B, and it seems to me that many (if not all) of those arguing against HIV causing AIDS ask far more of HIV than any other pathogen.

In response to their earlier request for an arrowed copy of the Richieri paper, I can provide simple instructions. Draw a circle around the figure (figure 2), in red ink preferably. Draw an arrow pointing to the circle. Then READ THE REST OF THE PAPER. The subsequent analysis demonstrates entirely to my satisfaction that the particles shown are those of HIV, albiet gp120-depleted. Once again I marvel at the ability of these self-proclaimed literature reviewers to ignore what is under their noses while being able to dig out minutiae from outdated sources that doesn't support their conclusions in any case.

I look forward to their next installment. If the Perth Group continue in their refusal to respond to entirely legitimate concerns posed by myself and others on the integrity of their conclusions, one must question their purpose in posting here. They are doing their cause more harm than good by devoutly sticking to it in the face of clear rebuttal!

Competing interests: None declared