Previous Rapid Response Next Rapid Response Top
Nicholas Bennett,
Infectious Disease Postdoc/Clinician
Department of Pediatrics, University Hospital, Syracuse NY

Send response to journal:

I'm hugely confused by the Perth Group. They state that:

"Hans Gelderblom confirmed that 10^6 virus particles per ml of plasma can be visualised. "

When in fact Gelderblom said to me:

"From experience, he thinks he could have been successful with particle concentrations of 10^10 per ml"

How 10,000,000,000 became 1,000,000 I am unable to see.

As to what methods I would use to visualise HIV from peripheral blood, my immediate question is "why is this even relevant?" and my response would be: since peripheral visualisation is so difficult I would go for the replicative centres in the lymph nodes. And this is what has been done. If the Perth Group require visual confirmation, I recommend LN biopsies. If however they require confirmation of HIV RNA/protein identity I recommend molecular methods. Horses for courses. I do not believe that a better visualisation method currently exists other than EM for viruses, but if it won't work what else is there to do but try something else?

Note that patients with high viral loads are relatively rare: treatment guidelines are based upon Mellors' work and extensions of it, that stratified patients in the 10,000s of copies per ml, not even up to 100,000 copies. Finding a patient with copies up to a million isn't usual, and certainly not 10 billion!

I can send the Perth Group an email of the Richieri paper if they so desire, but since they implied they already had a copy I fail to see the point. I shall oblige anyway.

As to why we need "dissidents", that is indeed a very good question. What purpose do the Perth Group actually think they are achieving by repeatedly misrepresenting the literature? By all means, make legitimate claims, but deconstruction through falsehood only detracts from the message (as I mentioned before regarding the role of antioxidants in slowing AIDS progression). Ho's tap and drain model was wrong, and pointing out inconsistencies helped to direct attention to other possibilities. Trying to prove that HIV either doesn't exist or cannot cause AIDS after all this time and work showing the contrary is silly.

Note that I make a distinction between AIDS dissidents and other critics. I find that despite their varying views the "Dissidents" are united in a general lack of either basic understanding (undermining their assumptions or logic) or very specfic knowledge (undermining their facts). In my experience the Perth Group are peculiar in being so keen to omit from or misrepresent the primary literature, and one wonders why that is, because their publised material is being accepted as gospel by a great many laymen who cannot reasonably be expected to know any different. This is obviously dangerous if they are wrong about their HIV/AIDS theories and people are ignoring the very real risks of a sexually transmitted and blood borne lethal infection.

As an example, since they recognise the importance of further characterisation of RT in Montagnier's orignal "isolation" paper, and he did so, will they detract their claim that he did not?

Competing interests: None declared