]]]]]]]]]]]]]     AIDS AND THE "INNOCENT VIRUS"    [[[[[[[[[[[[[[ 
                         Peter Duesberg              (12/30/1988)
(Peter  Duesberg is   professor  of  molecular   biology  at  the
University of California, Berkeley.)
   Peter Duesberg, an American molecular biologist, believes that
the human immunodeficiency  virus does not cause  AIDS.  He is in
Britain  this week  to  explain his  case,  and why  he  says the
scientific establishment has got it wrong.
      (From the New Scientist, 28 April 1988, pp. 34-35)

             [Kindly uploaded by Freeman 10602PANC]

   Most of  the world's virologists  believe that  a virus causes
acquired immune  deficiency syndrome  (AIDS).  They  say that the
virus, of a type known as  a retrovirus, kills the T-cells of the
body's immune system after a  latency period of about five years.
Virologists  call  the  virus  the  human  immunodeficiency virus
   The hypothesis that a virus  causes AIDS is primarily based on
the correlation that most,  but not all, AIDS  patients in the US
have antibodies to  the virus as  detected by the  blood test for
antibodies to HIV.  In other  words, virologists have equated the
presence  of  antibodies  in  the blood  with  the  cause  of the
disease.  But antibodies  do not cause  disease; on the contrary,
they can prevent it.
   Support for  the theory  that HIV  causes AIDS  comes form the
knowledge that some people who had received blood transfusions or
blood products  later developed AIDS,  presumably as  a result of
receiving the virus in contaminated blood.
   I believe that this  is a presumption.  For  one thing, only 2
per cent  of American haemophiliacs  with antibodies  to HIV have
some of  the many symptoms  of AIDS.   Health authorities stopped
transfusions with antibody-positive blood early in 1985.  Yet the
number  of  people  with AIDS  who  also  had  blood transfusions
doubled  in the  year  ending 21  March  1988, compared  with the
previous year.
   It  is a  presumption because  transfusions can  also transmit
other  viruses, microbes  or  blood-borne toxins  that  may cause
disease.  Another presumption is that nothing else takes place to
cause AIDS between  infection and the onset  of disease in people
who have received blood transfusions.
   The hypothesis that HIV causes AIDS has become the basis of an
annual research effort in the US that takes $1 billion of federal
funding, and probably half as  much again from individual states,
private  foundations   and  corporations.   This   HIV  the  most
expensive virus ever studied.
   The belief that the virus  causes AIDS is also behind research
into  the  highly  toxic  drug,  zidovudine,  formerly  known  as
azidothymidine (AZT).  Some virologists  say that the drug should
be used as a therapy for  people who are asymptomatic for AIDS as
well as those who have symptoms.
   All of this would be justified if HIV were indeed proven to be
the cause  of AIDS.  However,  in the  rush to find  the cause of
AIDS,  virologists have  given  insufficient time  to  a thorough
analysis  of the  justification for  naming  HIV as  the culprit.
Many  questions  remain unanswered,  and  -- even  worse  -- many
remain unasked.  When  last year I  finally challenged the belief
that HIV caused AIDS, in an article in Cancer Research (vol 47, p
1199),  virologists  and  the  ``HIV  establishment''  treated my
challenge with complete silence.
   The basis  for my  case is that  all viruses,  except for HIV,
follow certain  rules when  they are  said to  cause diseases.  A
principle rule is  known as Koch's  first postulate.  This states
that a viral or  microbial pathogen must be  present in all cases
of the disease that it is said to cause.
   Paradoxically, this does not seem  to apply to HIV.  Many AIDS
cases reported by the  Centers for Disease Control  in the US are
HIV negative.   Indeed, the CDC's  revised guidelines  of 1987 on
the definition  of AIDS stipulate  how to diagnose  AIDS when the
laboratory evidence for HIV is completely negative.
   Another  point  is that  all  known viruses,  when  they cause
disease, kill or  intoxicate more cells than  the host can spare.
To  do  this,  such viruses  are  biochemically  very  active and
typically reproduce copious quantities  of new viruses.  Examples
are the viruses that cause such diseases such as polio, hepatitis
and herpes.
   Paradoxically, HIV actively  infects less than 1  in 10 000 to
100 000  T-cells, even  in fatal  cases of  AIDS.  It  is just as
paradoxical that HIV is no more ``active'' in fatal cases of AIDS
than  in  the  1  to 2  million  Americans  who  are asymptomatic
carriers.  Under  these conditions, HIV  infection cannot account
for the loss  of T-cells observed  in AIDS patients,  even if all
actively infected  cells died.   This is  because during  the two
days it takes for a retrovirus to replicate, the body regenerates
about 5  per cent  of T-cells,  more than  enough regeneration to
compensate for losses due to the virus.
   The chronic dormancy of HIV between infection and the onset of
disease also explains the notorious difficulties in isolating HIV
from AIDS patients.  Virologists must grow millions of cells from
infected people in cell culture, away from the host's suppressive
immune system,  to activate  a rare  latent virus;  even then the
success  rate  is  only  about  50  per  cent,  sometimes showing
positive only after 15 attempts.
   In some  people with AIDS,  virologists failed  to isolate not
just the virus  itself, but viral DNA  that had supposedly become
integrated into human DNA -- the proviral DNA.  The very scarcity
of HIV in antibody-positive persons is also the reason why HIV is
never  casually  transmitted,  unlike   other  viruses  that  are
abundant  and  hence readily  transmitted  during  the contagious
disease-causing stage.
   Viruses  typically  cause  disease  only  in  the  absence  of
antibodies to  the virus, which  neutralise the  virulence of the
virus.   This is  why vaccination  works so  well.  Nevertheless,
some  viruses  may  persist  as  latent  infections  after  being
neutralised by  antibodies produced  by the  immune system.  Such
viruses  can again  become  pathogenic, or  disease-causing, when
they  are  reactivated  as  antiviral  immunity  declines  -- for
example, the herpes viruses.
   But HIV is said  to be the cause of  AIDS only in the presence
of antibodies  to the  virus.  This  is all  the more paradoxical
because this virus  does not become activated when the carrier of
the virus develops  the symptoms of  AIDS.  Thus HIV  is the only
virus that  seems to cause  disease after rather  than before the
development of antibodies.
   If  orthodox  pathogenic  viruses cause  disease,  they  do so
within 1  to 2  months of  infection.  By  that time,  the host's
immune  system either  eliminates the  virus  or restricts  it to
being latent, or the virus beats  the immune system and kills the
   Indeed,  clinicians report  that in  rare  cases HIV  causes a
disease  like glandular  fever (mononucleosis),  when there  is a
large number of monocyte cells  in the blood soon after infection
but  prior to  immunity, presumably  due  to an  acute infection.
Since  this disease  disappears  as the  body  develops antiviral
immunity, it may reflect the true ``disease'' of HIV.
   Paradoxically, HIV is said to  cause AIDS only after a bizarre
latency  period  of about  five  years, by  which  time antiviral
immunity should  have severely  restricted the  virus.  Since all
genes of HIV  are expressed during the  replication of the virus,
HIV should  cause AIDS when  it first infects,  rather than years
   If AIDS were only the product of time and the presence of HIV,
about 20 percent of  the 1 to 2 million  Americans (up to 400 000
people)  estimated  to be  carriers  of HIV  should  develop AIDS
annually.  This compares to the  actual number of annual cases of
10 000 to 20 000.
   Furthermore, many  AIDS cases  would be  expected in countries
such as Haiti or Zaire,  where epidemiologists estimate that 4 to
10 per cent of the  general population is HIV positive.  However,
there are only 335  total cases reported in  Zaire, and 912 cases
in Haiti.
   HIV is  a retrovirus.  Unlike  the viruses that  kill cells to
cause  degenerative diseases,  retroviruses  need a  dividing and
viable cell  for replication.   During retroviral  infection, the
genetic material of the virus becomes integrated into the genetic
material of the cell it infects.
   Thus retroviruses  are compatible  with the  cells they infect
and  they often  stimulate the  growth  and replication  of these
cells.  It is  for this reason  that scientists have  for so long
considered  that  retroviruses  are   the  most  plausible  viral
carcinogens.  However, the Virus-Cancer Program in the US, set up
to  test  this hypothesis  in  President Nixon's  War  on Cancer,
showed that  most animal and  all human  retroviruses analysed to
date  are  benign  parasites  that  are  neither  pathogenic  nor
   Yet, HIV, a  retrovirus, is said  to behave like  a virus that
kills  cells, causing  the degenerative  disease AIDS  by killing
T-cells.   This happens  even  though T-cells  grown  in culture,
which produce much more virus than has ever been observed in AIDS
patients,  continues to  divide and  remain immortal.   The virus
does not seem to kill these cells.
   A final  reason why  I believe  that HIV  does not  cause AIDS
results  from  the observation  that  no known  virus  or microbe
discriminates between men and  women, nor between homosexuals and
heterosexuals.  Yet, 92 per cent of  all the AIDS cases in the US
supposedly  caused by  HIV are  male, even  eight years  into the
   This, then, is why I dispute  the notion that HIV causes AIDS.
If  it  is not  HIV  that causes  AIDS,  then what  does?   It is
unlikely that a unique virus or microbe causes the many different
diseases now covered by the term  AIDS.  I would suggest that the
variability of the  latency period between  HIV infection and the
onset of AIDS, and the  nearly exclusive association of AIDS with
``risk  groups'',  argue  against  a  single  specific infectious
   Risk  behaviour,  such  as  promiscuity,  needle  sharing  and
receiving blood  transfusions can  involve the  exchange of human
cells.  It could just as easily  involve the exchange of the real
cause or causes of  AIDS as the exchange  of retroviruses such as
HIV.  The long  ``latency period'' probably  reflects the time it
takes for one  of the many  symptoms of AIDS  to develop in those
who practice risk behaviour.  Multiple factors, such as viral and
microbial  infections  on  non-infectious  toxins,  may therefore
cause these symptoms.
   The proponents of  the argument for  HIV as the  cause of AIDS
often  accept that  the  virus does  not  obey orthodox  rules of
virology.  I  would argue  that there is  no room  for the virus,
whose genetic structure  is similar to  other known retroviruses,
to  be  unorthodox.  To  believe  that  HIV causes  AIDS  is like
believing in miracles.
        [The following is not part of the article above.]
Blattner, W. et al.  `Blattner and Colleagues Respond to
   Duesberg', Science, vol 241 (29 July 1988), p. 514.
Blattner, W.; Gallo, R.C.; Remin, H.M.  `HIV Causes AIDS',
   Science, vol 241 (29 July 1988), p. 515.
Duesberg, Peter.  `Duesberg's Response to Blattner and
   Colleagues', Science, vol 241 (29 July 1988), p. 515.
Duesberg, Peter.  `HIV Is Not the Cause of AIDS', Science, vol
   241 (29 July 1988), p. 514.
Weber, Jonathan.  `Aids and the `guilty' virus'.  New Scientist,
   5 May 1988, pp. 32-33.  (Reply to Duesberg's article in New
   Scientist, 28 April 1988).

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