Reply to Peter Morrell: Deconstructing 'viruses' 25 February 2005
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Alexander H Russell,
artist/writer/philosopher
WC1N 1PE

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Re: Reply to Peter Morrell: Deconstructing 'viruses'

Peter Morrrell asks Alexander Russell regarding the nature of 'viruses':

"Why does he think it is obvious or blatantly obvious that all other viruses are not also 'epiphenomena,' 'disease markers' or 'endogenous entities?' Just as he states about retroviruses, these entities are *assumed* to be pathogenic, they are assumed to be causes of disease states, NOT the products of disease states. How is the causation of their pathogenicity so solidly proven? How is it proven that they are not also products or mere 'associative factors' rather than causes of disease processes? Why cannot what Alex Russell says about retroviruses also apply to many other or indeed all viruses? Why are all viruses not 'endogenous epiphenomena' or 'disease markers' and therefore merely associative factors and *products* rather than causes of disease processes? What is the big objection, seeing that he agrees with my previous contention that deranged cells perhaps produce viruses?"

Peter Morrell's interesting and thought provoking questions are principally answered in my recent rapid response replies to Peter Flegg. See: 'Peter Flegg grossly misrepresented Stefan Lanka out of context' (BMJ rapid response: 24th February 2005) and: 'Reply to Flegg regarding 'retroviruses'…' (BMJ rapid responses: 23rd February 2005).

We have to keep on asking: is the proliferation of an alleged 'virus' the symptom of a disease or a cause of a disease? We are told that the rhinovirus causes the common cold but how do people who have been completely isolated catch the common cold? Where do 'viruses' start? All 'viruses' have to start somewhere: we have to think in terms of how 'viruses' are vectored. But how do we nominate what a 'virus' really is to begin with? Most of us know now that 'HIV' is not a 'virus' and we also know now that 'retroviruses' are not 'viruses'. Is the so-called 'Ebola virus' a true 'virus'? We have to deconstruct the taxonomic classification system that designates and nominates what a 'virus' really is. Also: we need to de-subjectivise’ and de-ontologise 'viruses' and relocate the negativity of 'viruses' in a positive light: the 'negative-dialectic' of a 'virus' as Theodor Adorno might have said.

A 'virus' has a job to do and has its own logic for doing so: a 'virus' needs to erase, eradicate, deconstruct something for its own ends. As human beings we subjectivise and ontologise 'viruses' (like 'cancers') as 'bad' things or as 'enemies' to be eradicated. Obviously 'viruses' and 'cancers' are seen in a 'negative light' by most human beings. Yet 'cancers' and 'viruses' are merely doing their own thing as transformers of being in the world. There is a school of thought that 'viruses' are a cleansing device expelling waste matter from cells. We need to rethink what a 'virus' is and learn to relate to 'viruses' as a part of our evolving being in the world.

As constantly mutating human beings we could be said to be 'viruses' in ourselves: maybe 'Virus' is the very core of our being just like 'Geist' or 'Spirit'? What are 'viruses' (and 'cancers') trying to tell our embodied being anyway? What we should be asking is: Why does the human body need 'viruses' and 'cancers'? That is the question.

Peter Morrell may find Virologist, Stefan Lanka’s succinct summary on the nature of viruses and virology of interest:

A little virology

Viruses are essentially just packages of genetic information enclosed in a coat which consists of proteins. They can reproduce themselves only by infecting a suitable host cell and appropriating the chemical machinery they find there. The proteins making up the viruses are characteristic for each species of virus. Apart from enveloping and transporting the genetic information intact, the composition of proteins for a given virus results in a specific shape for the virus particle.

This much is generally known. Less well-known is the existence of other particles which look like viruses but aren't, and are nonchalantly referred to as "virus-like" particles. Such particles are far from rare, found, for example, always in placentas, and very frequently in the artificial environment of laboratory cell cultures. They have served to muddy the waters considerably as far as AIDS research is concerned, because particles just like these have been called HIV. To date, none of these has been characterised and shown to exist as an entity which one may justifiably call a virus.

No evidence for the existence of HIV

Such evidence has up till now never been produced for HIV. No photograph of an isolated HIV particle has ever been published nor of any of its proteins or nucleic acids. No control experiments as mentioned above have been published to date. What has been shown are photographs of virus-like particles in cell cultures, but none of isolated viruses, let alone of a structure within the human body having the shape ascribed to HIV. What the whole world has seen are models representing HIV with dish aerials, said to be receptors with which the virus attaches itself to cells.

(HIV; REALITY OR ARTEFACT?, Stefan Lanka, Continuum April/May 1995).

Competing interests: None declared