Defends Challenges to the Existence of HIV:
Article 1 of 2 for Continuum
-adapted from Continuum, vol 4 (2) pages 8-9, July/August 1996
In 1983, Montagnier et al. have isolated a retrovirus, now termed
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), from a patient with lymphadenopathy
and proposed that HIV may cause AIDS. Antibody against this virus
has since been found in many, but not all AIDS patients (Duesberg,
1993) and in 17 million healthy people (World Health Organization,
Eleni Papadopulos, Val Turner, John Papadimitriou, David Causer,
Bruce Hedland-Thomas & Barry Page (Papadopulos-Eleopulos et al.,
1995) and Stefan Lanka (Lanka, 1995) maintain that the very existence
of HIV is dubious because (i) HIV has not been properly isolated
and thus could not have been properly identified. According to Papadopulos
et al. "HIV has never been isolated as an independent particle
separate from everything else." (Papadopulos-Eleopulos et al.,
1995) ; and (ii) because antibodies against HIV are not specific
(Papadopulos-Eleopulos, Turner and Papadimitriou, 1993) . They submit
that the following evidence is not "specific" for HIV:
identifying in the growth medium of infected human cell cultures
either the existence of virus-like particles with the electron microscope,
or of reverse transcriptase associated with such particles, or of
certain HIV antigens or proteins associated with particles, because
each of these could be cellular materials or could be from cell-borne
(endogenous) retroviruses other than HIV. Indeed, each of these
criteria could reflect another retrovirus, and some of theses criteria,
eg. particels and proteins, could reflect non-viral material altogether.
However, the Papadopulos-Lanka challenge, that HIV does not exist,
fails to explain (i) why virtually all people who contain HIV DNA
also contain antibodies against Montagnier"s HIV strain -the
global standard of all "HIV tests"- and (ii) why most,
but certainly not all people who lack HIV DNA contain no such antibodies.
The presence of HIV-reactive antibodies in some uninfected people
reflects an inherent limitation of tests for antibodies against
viruses and other microbes. Since even the simplest microbes display
thousands of antibody docking sites, termed epitopes, antibodies
against a given microbe may cross-react with an otherwise unrelated
microbe if the two share some epitopes.
In view of the current controversy about the identification of
HIV, the British AIDS magazine Continuum has offered in its Jan./Feb.
issue a "Missing virus! £1000 Reward" for prove of the
isolation of HIV, and the reward was reposted "105 days later
... we"re still waiting" in the March/April, 1996 issue
(Christie, 1996a; Christie, 1996b; Continuum, 1996) . The stakes
have since been raised considerably by a private reward of £10,000
from Alex Russell from The DMS Watson Library, University College
London (letter from Alex Russell to Peter Duesberg, 2/28/96), and
have now been raised even further by a £25,000 reward from James
Whitehead from The International AIDS Freedom Network (IAFN), London
(letter from Fred Cline, San Francisco Representative of the IAFN,
April 2, 1996; and letter from Alex Russell to Fred Cline, undated,
Here I take up these challenges. I will argue that HIV exists,
and has been properly identified as a unique retrovirus on the grounds
that (i) it has been isolated - even from its own virion structure
- in the form of an infectious, molecularly cloned HIV DNA that
is able to induce the synthesis of a reverse transcriptase containing
virion, and (ii) that HIV-specific, viral DNA can be identified
only in infected, but not in uninfected human cells. I will base
my case for the isolation of HIV on the most rigorous method available
to date, ie. molecular cloning of infectious HIV DNA, rather than
only on the much less stringent, traditional "rules for isolation
of a retrovirus ... discussed at the Pasteur Institute, Paris, in
1973" that were stated criteria of isolation in the Continuum"s
Missing virus reward (Continuum, 1996) . Indeed I will show that
molecular cloning of infectious HIV DNA exceeds the criteria of
the old "Pasteur rules".
(i) Isolation of HIV: The existence of the retrovirus
HIV predicts that HIV DNA can be isolated from the chromosomal DNA
of infected cells. This prediction has been confirmed as follows:
Full-length HIV-1 and HIV-2 DNAs have been prepared from virus-infected
cells and cloned in bacterial plasmids (Fisher et al., 1985; Levy
et al., 1986; Barnett et al., 1993) . Such clones are totally free
of all viral and cellular proteins, and cellular contaminants that
copurify with virus banded in sucrose gradients at a density of
1.16 g/ml according to the "Pasteur rules". Indeed, these
clones are even free of genomic HIV RNA. Infectious HIV-1 and HIV-2
DNA clones productively infect human cells to initiate HIV replication
(Fisher et al., 1985; Levy et al., 1986; Barnett et al., 1993) .
Such infected ("transfected") cells contain HIV-specific
DNA, and produce particles that contain reverse transcriptase, HIV-specific
antigens (Fisher et al., 1985; Levy et al., 1986) , have diameters
of 100 nm under the elctron microscope (Fisher et al., 1985) , as
expected for retroviruses, and produce infectious virus that is
neutralized by antisera from certain AIDS patients (Fisher et al.,
1985; Levy et al., 1986; Barnett et al., 1993) . Since infectious
HIV DNA has been isolated from infected human cells that is free
of HIV"s own proteins and RNA as well as from all cellular
macromolecules, HIV isolation has passed the most vigorous standards
available today. In other words these infectious DNA clones meet
and exceed the isolation standards of the traditional "Pasteur
rules". Isolation of infectious HIV DNAs is theoretically the
most absolute form of isolation - it is the equivalent of isolating
the virus" soul, its genetic code, from the virus" body,
the virus particle. Thus HIV isolation based on molecular cloning
exceeds the old standards defined as "Pasteur rules" by
Because of the outrageous interest in HIV as the hypothetical cause
of AIDS, many investigators have sought specific HIV DNA in humans
with and without AIDS in an effort to confirm the rather unreliable
HIV antibody-test (Duesberg, 1993; Papadopulos-Eleopulos, Turner and
(ii) Identification of HIV. The existence of HIV predicts that infected
cells contain a unique, virus-specific DNA of 9150 nucleotides that
cannot be detected in DNA of uninfected human cells. The probabilities
that cellular DNA and other viral DNAs would contain the same sequence
of 9150 nucleotides is 1 in 49150, or 1 in 104500 - extremly close
Because only 1 in 100 T-cells are ever infected in humans, virtually
all such studies use Kary Mullis" polymerase chain reaction,
a technique that is designed to amplify a DNA-needle into an DNA-haystack.
Such efforts have confirmed the existence of HIV-specific DNA in most
(not all) antibody-positive persons with and without AIDS - but not
in the DNA of antibody-negative people. For example Jackson et al.
have tested blood cells of 409 antibody-positives including 144 AIDS
patients and 265 healthy people. In addition 131 antibody-negatives
were tested. HIV-specific DNA subsets -defined in size and sequence
by HIV-specific primers (start signals for the selective amplification)
- were found in 403 of the 409 antibody-positives, but in none of
the 131 antibody-negative people (Jackson et al., 1990).
In conclusion: HIV has been isolated by the most rigorous method science
has to offer. An infectious DNA of 9.15 kilo bases (kb) has been cloned
from the cells of HIV-antibody-positive persons, that -upon transfection-
induces the synthesis of an unique retrovirus. This DNA "isolates"
HIV from all cellular molecules, even from viral proteins and RNA.
Having cloned infectious DNA of HIV is as much isolation of HIV as
one can possibly get, it is like isolating the fifth symphony from
an orchestra hall by recording it on a CD. The retrovirus encoded
by this infectious DNA reacts with the same antibodies that crossreact
with Montagnier"s global HIV standard, produced by immortal cell
lines in many labs and companies around the world for the HIV-test.
This confirms the existence of the retrovirus HIV.
The uniqueness of HIV is confirmed by the detection of HIV-specific
DNA sequences in the DNA of most antibody-positive people. The same
DNA is not found in uninfected humans, and the probability to find
such a sequence in any DNA sample is 1/49500 - which is much less
likely than to encounter the same water molecule twice by swimming
in the Pacific ocean every day of your life.
The existence of an unique retrovirus HIV provides a plausible explanation
for the good (not perfect) correlation between the existence of HIV
DNA and antibodies against it in thousands of people that have been
subjected to both tests. The Papadopulos-Lanka challenge fails to
explain this correlation.
Ergo: The Papadopulos-Lanka challenge is rejected. HIV exists and
has been isolated. Therefore I gratefully accept the rewards posted
for providing the evidence that HIV exists, and was isolated from
Continuum, Alex Russell and James Whitehead.
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