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"The Duesberg Phenomenon": Duesberg and Other Voices
By Peter H. Duesberg

Science 267: 313-314; 20 January 1995.

In the Special News report of 9 December (p. 1642) by Jon Cohen, Science struggles with what is called "The Duesberg phenomenon"-"a Berkeley virologist and his supporters continue to argue that HIV [human immunodeficiency virus] is not the cause of AIDS [acquired immunodeficiency syndrome]." Cohen tries to explain why "mainstream AIDS researchers" believe that HIV causes AIDS and why "HIV now fulfills the classic postulates ... by Robert Koch." One week later (16 Dec., p. 1803), Cohen himself appears to become part of the phenomenon, when he writes: "Is a new virus the cause of KS [Kaposi's sarcoma]?" One should realize the heresy of this question. KS has been and still is the signal disease of the AIDS Syndrome. The Centers for Disease Control include it in its list of 29 diseases defining AIDS in the presence of HIV (1). No other AIDS-defining disease has increased more than KS over its long-established background. It was so rare before AIDS that many doctors told me that they had never seen it before in young men. This is the reason why KS has become a hallmark for AIDS. And now, according to Cohen, "solid headway will have been made ..." if HIV is found not to be the cause of KS.

Since "mainstream AIDS researchers" now consider one non-HIV cause for AIDS, why not consider others. Accordingly, I submit two experimental tests to find such causes.

1) Cohen wonders (16 Dec., p. 1803) about the "mystery" that "KS is almost exclusively confined to male homosexuals," but he reports (9 Dec., p. 1648) that "use of nitrite inhalants, known as 'poppers' ... has been high among some subgroups in the homosexual population" and that "nitrite inhalants [are] popular among gay men" (16 Dec., p. 1803). Cohen also interviewed the authors of a study that had shown in 1993 that every one of 215 homosexual AIDS patients from San Francisco had used poppers in addition to other recreational drugs and AZT (2).

Since nitrites are some of the best known mutagens and carcinogens (3) and AIDS KS typically occurs on the skin and in the lungs, the primary site of nitrite inhalant exposure, I propose to solve the "mystery": Expose 100 mice, or cats, or monkeys to nitrite inhalants at doses comparable with human recreational use and for time periods approximating the so-called 10-year latent period between infection by HIV to the onset of AIDS-possibly a euphemism for the time of drug use necessary for AIDS to develop. (It takes 10 to 20 years of smoking for emphysema or lung cancer to develop.) I would predict this result: immunodeficiency, pneumonia, and pulmonary KS in animals.

2) According to Cohen, mainstream AIDS researchers argue that it is "impossible" to eliminate confounding factors from HIV in typical AIDS risk groups, as for example in hemophiliacs "because [they] do not keep track of each factor VIII treatment" (9 Dec., p. 1645). Therefore, we are asked to accept confounded epidemiological studies of HIV-positives-who are either male homosexuals using immunotoxic nitrites (2), or are intravenous drug users, or are hemophiliacs subject to immunosuppressive transfusions, or are being treated with AZT, or are subject to exotic lifestyles-as evidence that HIV causes AIDS.

In view of this, I propose a very possible epidemiological test of whether HIV or non-HIV factors cause AIDS: Compare the incidence of AIDS-defining diseases in 3650 homo- or heterosexual American men, who are not on transfusions and recreational drugs or AZT, but are HIV-positive, to the incidence in 3650 HIV-negative counterparts. These healthy subjects could be found by the U.S. Army, which tests more than 2.5 million per year, or among those contributing to the blood banks, which test more than 12 million a year. If the 3650-day latent period is correct, every 2 days one of the people that are HIV-positive would develop AIDS. I would predict this result: The percentage incidence in the HIV-positive group will be the same as in the HIV-negative group.

If the mainstream AIDS researchers are not already doing these experiments, I would be delighted to do them provided I can get funded.


1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Morb Mort Weekly Rep 41 (No. RR17), 1-19 (1992).

2. M. S. Ascher, H. W. Sheppard, W. Winkelstein Jr., E. Vittinghoff, Nature (London) 362: 103-104 (1993).

3. H. W. Haverkos, J. A. Dougherty, Eds., Health Hazards of Nitrite Inhalants, NIDA Research Monograph 83 (U.S. Dept. Health & Human Services, Washington, DC, 1988).

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