More on the "HIV" Genome 6 September 2004
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Eleni Papadopulos-Eleopulos,
Biophysicist
Department of Medical Physics, Royal Perth Hospital, Western Australia, 6001,
Valendar F Turner, John Papadimitriou, Barry Page, David Causer, Helman Alfonso, Sam Mhlongo, Todd Miller, Christian Fiala

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Re: More on the "HIV" Genome

More on the "HIV" Genome

In his rapid response: "Re: Where is the evidence for the existence of the "HIV" genome", 25 August, Christopher Noble wrote: "Already the goal posts have moved. Initially, it was about whether HIV DNA had been found in T-cells. Several qualifications have been added. I expect more will follow."

We have never moved the goal posts. The goal posts were and still are: are AIDS patients infected with a unique exogenous retrovirus, "HIV"? If they are then 20 years ago evidence must have existed that the AIDS patients cells, the virus is supposed to infect, the T4 cells, contain the "HIV" genome. Yet, although Montagnier claimed that "HIV" is an exogenous retrovirus, for some unknown reason, he and his colleagues did not publish any data regarding the existence of the "HIV" RNA or DNA in the AIDS patients cells. Gallo did, and his findings were published in the study entitled: "Molecular characterisation of human T-cell leukaemia (lymphotropic) virus type III in the acquired immune deficiency syndrome", with Shaw as the principal author1 (See below).

Christopher Noble wrote: "This study did indicate that only a small number of T-cells are infected with HIV and that lymph nodes and spleen cells are a better place to look. The Perth Group are already aware of this paper and choose to ignore it."

We did not ignore the 1984 study by Shaw, Gallo and his colleagues. In fact we have repeatedly quoted from it, including in the BMJ rapid responses. Once again: "We have previously been able to isolate HTLV-III from peripheral blood or lymph node tissue from most patients with AIDS or ARC" (they "isolated" it from approximately 50% of patients referred to by Gallo). "However, as shown herein, HTLV-III DNA is usually not detected by standard Southern Blotting hybridisation of these same tissues and, when it is, the bands are often faint…the lymph node enlargement commonly found in ARC and AIDS patients cannot be due to the proliferation of HTLV-III-infected cells…the absence of detectable HTLV-III sequences in Kaposi's sarcoma tissue of AIDS patients suggests that this tumour is not directly induced by infection of each tumour cell with HTLV-III…the observation that HTLV-III sequences are found rarely, if at all, in peripheral blood mononuclear cells, bone marrow, and spleen provides the first direct evidence that these tissues are not heavily or widely infected with HTLV-III in either AIDS or ARC" (emphasis ours). The finding that when the results were positive the hybridisation bands were "faint", "low signal" was interpreted as proof that HIV seropositive individuals contain HIV DNA in small numbers of cells and at low copy numbers, an interpretation which became generally accepted, although Gallo and his colleagues had an alternative explanation, "Theoretically, this low signal intensity could also be explained by the presence of virus distantly homologous to HTLV-III in these cells" This alternative explanation has been ignored by everybody. In 1994 Gallo stated: "We have never found HIV DNA in the tumour cells of KS…In fact we have never found HIV DNA in T-cells".2

Surely then, any scientist including Christopher Noble (unless he knows something which Gallo himself does not know) would conclude that in 1984 Gallo did not publish evidence demonstrating the existence of "HIV DNA in PBMC".

In the paper entitled: "Biological Characterisation of Human Immunodeficiency Virus, Type 1 Clones Derived from different Organs of an AIDS Patient by Long-range PCR", Dittmar et al wrote: "To our knowledge, this is the first time that replication-competent viruses have been constructed by long-range PCR amplification of genomic DNA prepared directly from different tissues".3 Thus, at least up till 1997, no evidence existed that AIDS patients were infected with an exogenous retrovirus.

Christopher Noble wrote: "I do not believe that the Perth Group will be easily separated from their dogma by evidence. Nevertheless, I will play their game. Here is a reference showing full length HIV genomes (minus the 5' LTR) recovered from various tissue cells including PBMCs, lymph nodes and spleen cells. Biological characterisation of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 clones derived from different organs of an AIDS patient by lond-range PCR."

The authors of the above study, discussing their findings wrote: "In order to construct replication-competent HIV clones representing the genotype present at a specific time point in a specific tissue we used long-range PCR. This approach allowed us to construct full-length proviruses containing the major V3 loop sequence found in PBMC of patient 4…Successful amplification of proviral 3' halves derived from different tissues made it possible to construct recombinant proviruses containing the tat, rev, vpu, and nef genes together with the entire env gene present in each tissue".

Nowhere in the study can one find evidence "showing full length HIV genomes (minus the 5' LTR) recovered from various tissue cells including…lymph nodes and spleen cells".

Furthermore, and most importantly:

(1) Dittmar et al used tissue cells from one single patient with "high provirus load in the lymphoid as well as the non-lymphoid tissue". In this case they should have been able to obtain the full length "HIV" genome by the standard hybridisation technique;

(2) The authors did everything possible to obtain and increase the "sensitivity of the long-range PCR approach". Yet, they do not even mention the other most important test parameter – specificity;

(3) As usual in "HIV" research, in these studies there are no controls much less proper controls. Considering that:

(a) one of the authors of this study is Robin Weiss;

(b) as far back as 1986 Robin Weiss and his colleagues detected, using the standard hybridisation technique, the "HIV" genome in patients with "common variable" hypogammaglobulinaemia;

It is difficult to explain the lack of controls.

(4) The study was not blind.

References

1. Shaw GM, Hahn BH, Arya S, Groopman JE, Gallo RC, Wong-Staal F. Molecular characterization of human T-cell leukemia (lymphotropic) virus type III in the acquired immune deficiency syndrome. Science 1984;226:1165-1171.

2. Lauritsen JL. NIDA meeting calls for research into the poppers-Kaposi's sarcoma connection. In: Duesberg PH, editor. AIDS: Virus- or Drug Induced. London: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1995:325-330.

3. Dittmar MT, Simmons G, Donaldson Y, Simmonds P, Clapham PR, Schulz TF, et al. Biological characterization of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 clones derived from different organs of an AIDS patient by long-range PCR. J Virol 1997;71:5140-7.

Competing interests: None declared