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    Subject Index > Lymph Nodes > Does HIV Lurk In Your Lymph ..


By Bryan J. Ellison
Rethinking AIDS April 1993

The March 24 issue of the London Times featured a commentary by John Maddox, editor of Nature, who apparently wanted to vent some steam. He bitterly attacked Peter Duesberg for "the perverse but seductive theory that the HIV virus does not cause Aids at all...The truth is the opposite. The real deception is the alternative theory that HIV has nothing to do with Aids." According to Maddox, Duesberg has now been solidly refuted by the finding of active HIV replication in the Lymph nodes of infected patients, even during the ten-year and growing latent period of AIDS. In ominous tones, Maddox revealed his personal desire to have science abandon its tradition of skeptical inquiry: "Heterodox opinions in science are allowable, and sometimes even productive. But it is another question whether those who use them to offer false [sic] hope to those with HIV infection in the face of all the evidence can be held to be acting ethically."

Maddox was particularly referring to a set of papers published during the preceding week. The most oft-cited of these, authored by AIDS mogul Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health, appeared in the March 25 Nature. Fauci reports having used the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to count the number of HIV-infected T cells, as well as checking directly for cell-free virus particles. He compared the results from circulating blood against those from Lymph node tissues. What did he find?

In describing the miraculous properties of HIV, Fauci got down to brass tacks: "....a burst of viremia....a prolonged period....little, if any....very low....extremely difficult.... active....associated.... may be related....striking differences.... consistently observed....high levels.... increased....clearly lower....striking dichotomy....high levels....replicates actively.... active and progressive...." But virtually no numbers! Although trying to imply he found large amounts of the virus, Fauci inadvertently demonstrated through such colorful language his disappointing results. Indeed, he hid his only relevant statistics in the caption to figure 1, showing that HIV infected only about 1/100 to 1/10,000 CD4+ T cells, even in the Lymph nodes. And this assay did not distinguish between cells containing active or dormant HIV.

Fauci's only other contribution in this paper was the confirmation of existing textbook knowledge on the workings of the immune system. He correctly recalled that "an initially adequate immune response itself also contributes substantially to the clearance of virus from the circulation. In the late stages of disease [AIDS], these mechanical mechanisms are altered and an effective immune response against HIV is lost, leading to an increase in viral burden in [blood cells]." In other words, HIV is really just an opportunistic infection sometimes unleashed after the immune system has been suppressed. In order to eliminate any invading virus, the immune system coats it with antibodies, thereby immobilizing the offending germs; the neutralized agents are then filtered out in-you guessed it-the Lymph nodes, where they are destroyed. Fauci also acknowledged this "virus-trapping capability of the node," and his paper reported that the only virus particles he could find in Lymph tissues were "coated with proteins," i.e., antibodies. These were viruses caught in the process of being digested. Furthermore, he does not report the actual numbers of such neutralized virus particles, presumably meaning he found very few.

Once again Duesberg stands confirmed, although Fauci's own logic seems to be lost on himself. Fauci gave his data a topsy-turvy interpretation, concluding that HIV was being produced in the Lymph nodes and released to the blood.

An immensely more competent report appeared in Science on March 19. A collaborative project between Genelabs Technologies of California and the University of Alabama, the study provided hard numbers in another attempt to refute Duesberg. But all that hard work merely proved his point.

This study used quantitative PCR to measure levels of actual HIV expression in the blood, in which it also examined amounts of p24 antigen (a protein contained in HIV particles) and even infectious virus itself. The study purported to show high levels of HIV shortly after infection, followed by its suppression during the latent period and subsequent reactivation when the patient reaches terminal AIDS. Was HIV the marauding criminal or a harmless opportunist?

First of all, the PCR and p24 data showed at best a poor correlation with the actual number of virus particles. Patients registering high on these molecular assays often had very little HIV, and vice versa. Thus only direct measurements of the virus are useful, a point well worth remembering for many other papers that have used such artifact-prone methods to claim high levels of HIV in the body.

Second, this new study revealed a complete absence of HIV while the patient's T cell counts drop. Of the thirty-two HIV-infected subjects with no symptoms or early stages of AIDS, having CD4+ T cell counts ranging from 231 to 1080, twenty-eight had no virus whatsoever, while in the remaining four it was barely detectable. The virus is simply not around while the immune system undergoes most of its destruction.

Third, the virus was inconsistently reactivated in patients with full-blown clinical AIDS or T cell counts below 200. Of these twenty-eight cases, six had no virus at all. Only six others had greater than one thousand virus particles per milliliter of blood, and only two of those reached a high of 100,000 particles per milliliter. This was an incredible spread of values, meaning that the virus could return from latency only in a percentage of patients whose immune systems had already been destroyed. Had HIV done the damage, it would have been found all along, in all individuals, in extremely large amounts. Only the two patients with the highest levels of the virus might have qualified; the other twenty-six did not. The verdict: HIV is merely a sporadic opportunistic infection.

The fact that these authors were able to find several patients with detectable HIV, which contradicts most other studies showing only a tiny fraction of infected people with infectious particles, strongly implies that this group of patients had been carefully selected at the start. The report failed to describe what risk group they fall into, nor how they were chosen. In any case, the established scientific literature shows that the great majority of AIDS patients have no active virus at all.

This Science paper not only refused to draw the logical conclusions from its own data, but tragically also tried to reestablish the credibility of AZT therapy. Several patients were started on this toxic chemotherapy and re-tested for HIV; virus levels sharply decreased in each person. The authors ignore the probability that the virus decreased simply because the cells it infects were being killed by the AZT. Their paper does not provide T cell counts on any patient save one, who experienced "a subsequent progressive decline to 128 [CD4+ T cells] per cubic millimeter and clinical progression to CDC stage IVC2 [full-blown AIDS]." Ironically, the authors only commented that this occurred "despite anti viral therapy."

If Maddox is an honest scientist and re-reads these studies carefully, he will have to sign on with the Group for the Scientific Reappraisal of the HIV-AIDS Hypothesis. We're waiting.*

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