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The Case of HIV and AIDS - Part 2    Part 1  Part 3  Part 4  Part 5

Updates, January-September 1995
The Mess in Science and the Gutknecht-Shalala Exchange

Part 2 - Contents

6. An article in Science, 9 December 1994 pp 648-650

7. Other Viruses and the Unreliable Mess in Science pp 650-655
8. Rep. Gutknecht's Letter and Shalala's Answer pp 655-656


Part 2 - Contents pg. 648


6. An article in Science, 9 December 1994
On 9 December 1994, Science published an 8-page analysis of some dissent concerning HIV as a cause of AIDS (pp. 1642-1649). The article in several parts, authored by Jon Cohen, was headlined:

The Duesberg Phenomenon
A Berkeley virologist and his supporters continue to argue that HIV is not the cause of AIDS.
A 3-month investigation by Science evaluates their claims.

Science (and not just its reporter Jon Cohen) took responsibility for the investigation and its conclusions. Aside from the displayed responsibility of "a 3-month investigation by Science" in the heading, responsibility was further taken on the very first page, where Science was mentioned three more times as follows:

But because the Duesberg phenomenon has not gone away and may be growing, Science decided this was a good time to examine Duesberg's main claims. In a 3-month investigation, Science interviewed more than 50 supporters and detractors... The main conclusions of Science's investigation are that:


pg 649

- In hemophiliacs ... there is abundant evidence that HIV causes disease and death (see p. 1645).

- According to some AIDS researchers, HIV now fulfills the classic postulates of disease causation established by Robert Koch (see p. 1647).

- The AIDS epidemic in Thailand, which Duesberg has cited as confirmation of his theories, seems instead to confirm the role of HIV (see p. 1647).

- AZT and illicit drugs, which Duesberg argues can cause AIDS, don't cause the immune deficiency characteristic of that disease (see p. 1648).

One effect of the Science article of 9 December 1994 was to acknowledge officially, in the #1 magazine of the scientific establishment, the existence of an expanding challenge to the HIV/AIDS hypothesis and to the establishment's way of dealing with this challenge in the past.

On the other hand, I regard the Science article of 9 December 1994 as tendentious and skewed, but here is not the place to make a comprehensive detailed analysis. However, I give a couple of examples.

First I object to personalizing dissent about the official line that "HIV causes AIDS" in the context of "The Duesberg Phenomenon." I object to lumping together different people such as Harry Haverkos (who sponsored the NIDA May 1994 meeting on nitrite inhalants), the co-authors of the article on AIDS in Africa14 referred

Footnotes for page 649
14
These co-authors include especially Harvey Bialy, research editor of Biotechnology. Cohen tried to interview me. I asked that his questions be put in writing, and he faxed me a letter containing questions on 1 November 1994. I found Cohen's questions and statements so defective that I refused to deal with him, and wrote a letter to Koshland explaining in detail why I refused to deal with Cohen. I made a line by line analysis of Cohen's letter to me. For example, Cohen wrote me: "You extensively cite Duesberg's writings and references that he has provided you with, yet I do not see any other references of AIDS literature. Have you investigated the AIDS literature to address the question about the link between HIV and AIDS?"

Cohen was referring to the present article, which I had sent to him before publication in the Yale Scientific. As I wrote to Koshland, Cohen's statement ("Yet I do not see...") documents blindness, as well as incompetence in processing information. To cite just two examples, in my article I quote from a paper by Papadopoulos et al (especially Bialy), and I devote an entire section to the paper by Ascher et al., published by Nature, and reported in the New York Times among many other newspapers which took seriously a press release by Nature. I did not get either of these papers from Duesberg. Bialy himself sent me his preprint.

In any case, what of it if Duesberg is kind enough to provide me with scholarly references at my request? I learned that malaria tests false positive for HIV antibodies from the Kary Mullis interview in the California Monthly, and I learned of a similar situation with respect to leprosy and tuberculosis from Neville Hodgkinson in the London Sunday Times. I asked Duesberg to provide me with the scholarly references to that effect, and he brought to my attention the actual scientific papers by others, reporting these facts. Scientifically, it does not matter who provided me with these references or when, but it was appropriate to acknowledge Duesberg for his bibliographical help.


pg 650

to in footnote 4, or myself among many others, as part of "the Duesberg phenomenon." What has "not gone away" is that an increasing number of individual scientists, with different points of view, different backgrounds, and different responsibilities, have publicly documented reservations about the official position of the government or the scientific establishment concerning HIV and AIDS. Lumping together independent scientists under the single category of Duesberg "supporters" skewed the perspective on the dissenters and on their multiple reasons for dissent.

Second, the article completely omitted mention of dissenters such as Bialy and Haverkos, as well as many points raised by the dissenters. For example, the NIDA meeting of May, the position of Harry Haverkos on nitrite inhalants, the situation in Africa, the fact that malaria, tuberculosis, leprosy, and influenza, test false positive on the HIV antibodies test, were still not mentioned in the Science article. The AAAS June meeting was mentioned in only one sentence: "In June, the Pacific Division of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (publisher of Science) sponsored a daylong meeting at which the dissidents offered their points of view." No indication was given what were these points of view.

Especially significantly, as we shall see below, the 9 December 1994 article also made no mention of Kaposi's sarcoma.


Part 2 - Contents pg. 650

 

7. Other Viruses and the Unreliable Mess in Science

No hypothesis can be dismissed a priori. It is still a possibility that some virus(es) other than HIV sometimes cause some of the diseases listed under the "AIDS" umbrella by the CDC. We have already mentioned the possibility that different diseases in different risk groups may have different causes. The medical literature

In any case, what of it if Duesberg is kind enough to provide me with scholarly references at my request? I learned that malaria tests false positive for HIV antibodies from the Kary Mullis interview in the California Monthly, and I learned of a similar situation with respect to leprosy and tuberculosis from Neville Hodgkinson in the London Sunday Times. I asked Duesberg to provide me with the scholarly references to that effect, and he brought to my attention the actual scientific papers by others, reporting these facts. Scientifically, it does not matter who provided me with these references or when, but it was appropriate to acknowledge Duesberg for his bibliographical help.


pg 651

has a number of papers raising questions about many viruses, whether they are harmful or not, and how. Here I shall mention two of them.

 

HHV-6. One candidate has been the Human Herpes Virus 6, abbreviated HHV 6, as in the article "Human Herpesvirus 6 in lung tissue from patients with pneumonitis after bone marrow transplantation" (New England J. of Medicine 329, 15 July 1993, pp. 156-161). However, the article starts: "Human herpesvirus 6 (HHV6) infects over 90 percent of the U.S. population early in life, causing fever or rash in some children." To what extent does it make sense that such a common virus is "the" or "a" cause of some of the AIDS-defining diseases and under what circumstances? The above article itself is cautious in the summary conclusion at the beginning, where it states: "The concentrations of HHV-6 genomes in lung tissue and their relation to changes in serologic titers support an association between HHV-6 infection and idiopathic pneumonitis in immunocompromised hosts." Here we meet typical examples of arising questions: whether there is merely an "association" between a virus and some diseases, or whether a virus is a cause, and if so how. It is then a problem to make experiments to determine whether a given virus is merely a passenger virus, whether it lies dormant, and if it is awakened (how?.) whether it merely shows its presence by testing positive in various ways (antibodies?), or whether it is or becomes harmful (how?.), under certain circumstances (which?).

Still another Herpesvirus. On 16 December 1994, Science published a technical paper suggesting that a new virus may cause Kaposi's sarcoma.15 News articles on this paper occurred on that same day both in the New York Times and in Science as we shall now describe.

The New York Times (16 December 1994, p. 1). For the first time to my knowledge an article by Lawrence K. Altman mentioned another virus besides HIV as a possible cause for "AIDS," under the title: "Apparent Virus May Be a Cause Of Fatal Cancer in AIDS Patients." A salient fact is that HIV is nowhere mentioned in the article. A paragraph describing a certain phenomenon concerning the distribution of Kaposi's sarcoma among "people with

Footnotes for page 651
15
Y. Chang et al., "Identification of Herpesvirus-Like DNA Sequences in AIDS-Associated Kaposi's Sarcoma", Science (16 December 1994) pp. 1865-1869.


pg 652

AIDS...gay and bisexual men...and women with AIDS," is followed by the sentences: "Experts say the introduction of a previously unknown virus that coincided with the advent of the epidemic of AIDS could explain such a phenomenon. Although a number of efforts have been made to link known infectious agents with Kaposi's sarcoma, none have held up."

Words in the headline such as "apparent" and "may be" were fully appropriate to the subsequent write up. Altman stated: "Scientists at Columbia University said they had found strong evidence of an apparent newly detected virus that, they said, might cause Kaposi's sarcoma in people with AIDS. Kaposi's is the most common cancer affecting gay men with AIDS, and one of the principle [sic] causes of death among that group."

Science (16 December 1994, p. 1803). Jon Cohen wrote the Science "Research News" article headlined:

Is a New Virus the Cause of KS?

Kaposi's sarcoma, a once-rare skin tumor, is a scourge of gay men

with AIDS. Several theories have attempted to explain it.

The latest: a novel herpesvirus

Cohen quoted one of the co-authors of the scientific paper, Patrick Moore, as saying that "this virus is probably playing a central role." Cohen then added: "That thesis will be intensely scrutinized over the coming months. But if it stands up, solid headway will have been made toward solving a vexing riddle that arose more than a decade ago when an old tumor began popping up in new places, with deadly results."

These Science and New York Ties articles are questionable on several grounds.

(a) What is "AIDS"? No definition of "AIDS" was given in either article. We have seen that KS is listed among the 29 diseases which define AIDS in the presence of HIV according to the CDC (see footnote 1). Expressions such as "Kaposi's sarcoma in people with AIDS" (New York Times), and "Kaposi's sarcoma...is a scourge in gay men with AIDS" (Science), represent shifting terminology, compounding the confusion about HIV and AIDS, and possibly representing the beginning of a rewriting of history concerning "AIDS" and what it means.

(b) What virus? Furthermore, no virus had been found. The New York Times article subsequently stated that the scientists


pg 653

found sequences of DNA which an "expert in herpes viruses at Yale University" said were "consistent with a new herpes virus." But the "expert" who said that also cautioned: "There is a long step between finding DNA sequences and having a virus."

(c) What cause? There is also a long step between finding yet another latent virus, and showing that it causes various forms of cancer, especially while it is dormant. The Times article contained one sentence to the effect that "even if the virus turns out to be a previously unknown one, they said, much research needed to be done to prove that it was the cause of Kaposi's sarcoma. The possibility exists that the virus is present in Kaposi's sarcoma only after the cancer develops." According to Duesberg, the fact that the DNA sequences were discovered only by amplification via PCR indicates that whatever is there, virus or not, is inactive and sparse. Duesberg added that there is no precedent for a virus causing cancer or another fatal disease while it is latent.

Harold Jaffe was quoted in the New York Times as saying: "It's a strong candidate to be the Kaposi sarcoma agent." So Jaffe was up to his usual rhetoric, since first, there is no candidate yet, and second the definite article ("the" Kaposi sarcoma agent) is unwarranted since Kaposi's sarcoma could be caused by several different agents, depending on the time, place, risk groups, various practices, or whatever, as I have repeatedly emphasized. Jaffe was similarly quoted in Science: "I think it's a tremendously exciting result. At this point, we can't say it's the etiologic agent, but I think it's a very good candidate."

So the New York Times and Science articles are worth mentioning here as important examples of the ongoing problematic and questionable journalistic treatment of HIV and AIDS (whatever AIDS is), as well as examples of the fixation by some scientists, the New York Times and Science on the finding of a virus, without bringing up other possibilities (e.g. toxic agents such as drugs).

(d) Joining the dissenters. By bringing up a new virus as a possible cause of KS, and by the evaluation "solid headway" concerning possible developments about such a "new virus," Altman and Cohen became HIV dissidents. Since KS is a hallmark of "AIDS" according to the CDC definition, it follows that Lawrence K. Altman, Jon Cohen, and the scientists whom they quoted as proposing a "new virus" to be the cause of KS, joined those who dissent from the unqualified view that "HIV causes AIDS."

Still another Science article. The hype on the new herpes virus


pg 654

was followed up in another article by Jon Cohen, "AIDS Mood Upbeat--For a Change" (Science 267, 17 February 1995, pp. 959-960). This article reported on a meeting sponsored by the American Society of Microbiology in Washington D.C., 29 January-2 February 1995. Cohen's article stated in part:

Among the more dramatic examples of progress was the strengthening evidence linking a new virus to KS. Last December, Patrick Moore, Yuan Chang, and their collaborators stunned AIDS researchers when they reported in Science that they had found a prime suspect... In spite of the accumulating evidence, Moore and Chang were reluctant to declare that they have found the cause of KS, but others, at the meeting were less restrained. Steven Miles, a KS researcher from the University of California, Los Angeles, who initially had serious reservations about the putative new virus, enthusiastically embraced the new findings. "I'm convinced that it is a herpesvirus, and it is very definitely the cause of Kaposi's sarcoma," said Miles, whose lab has replicated Moore and Chang's initial work.

Readers will note Cohen's hyped rhetoric: "...dramatic examples of progress ... stunned AIDS researchers..." Actually, in December 1994, Moore, Chang, et al. had not "found a prime suspect." They found DNA sequences, not a virus. Cf. (b) above.

Nullifying the hype. A further article by Jon Cohen titled "Controversy: Is KS Really Caused By New Herpesvirus?" (Science 268, 30 June 1995, pp. 1847-1848) continued spreading the unreliable mess coming from various scientists. The article to a large extent nullified the hype in the 16 December 1994 and 17 February 1995 articles, by reporting "deep reservations" about the role of the purported Herpes virus as a cause of KS, and also reporting that "those misgivings had been muted--until the AIDS-KS meeting" sponsored by the National Cancer Institute, 5 and 6 June 1995 in Bethesda MD. Cohen reported that "Gallo was at the center of the debate" and that "Gallo's withering critique of KSHV packed a punch." Oncologist Parkash Gill of the University of Southern California is reported as saying that "she has failed to find DNA sequences from KSHV in 11 KS cell lines," and Cohen quoted her: "I think the interpretation has gone beyond the data." Cohen also wrote: "Other researchers such as NCI epidemiologist Robert Biggar, were enthusiastic about the early evidence but now have doubts about the virus."


pg 655

On the other hand, Cohen reported: "Columbia University's Chang stuck by the data she and others have amassed that supports KSHV's role in KS... Steven Miles of the University of California, Los Angeles, went further: He is convinced KSHV causes the disease. He maintains that the inability to find the vital DBNA in some cell lines might be due to the fact that the lines have been regrown too many times, which may lead to the vital DNA sequences being cleaved out..."


Part 2 - Contents pg.655


8. Rep. Gutknecht's Letter and Shalala's Answer

 On 24 March 1995, Rep. Gil Gutknecht (R-MN) wrote a letter to Anthony Fauci with copies to high officials and scientists in the U.S. government, raising 12 specific questions about HIV and AIDS. HHS Secretary Donna Shalala answered on 10 July 1995, dealing with Gutknecht's questions seriatim in a 7-page letter. However, Shalala's response was severely defective, partly because she made repeatedly undocumented ex-cathedra assertions, several of which are false. Some of her responses misrepresented various situations. I shall select here one example concerning Gutknecht's question about the cause of Kaposi's Sarcoma. In this case one can document immediately in a particularly simple way the hype, misinformation, contradictions and unreliable mess which one gets from government officials and scientists in the context of challenges to the official governmental position on HIV and AIDS.

Gutknecht's question No. 5. If infectious HIV is the cause of AIDS, why is Kaposi's sarcoma--the signal disease of AIDS--exclusively observed in male homosexuals?

Shalala's response. The cause of Kaposi's sarcoma appears to be a newly described herpes-like virus; the tumor is much more common in persons with severe immunodeficiency such as that caused by HIV infection. While most cases have been reported among men who have sex with men, cases have been reported among women and among men who acquired HIV infection through exposures other than male-top-male sexual contact. In addition, Kaposi's sarcoma has also long been recognized among elderly men of Italian or Ashkenazi Jewish descent and among the Bantus of Southern Mrica, before the emergence of AIDS.


pg 656

(a) Shalala's response to Gutknecht's question asserts: "The cause of Kaposi's Sarcoma appears to be a newly discovered Herpes-like virus;..." Shalala gave no reference for this assertion. As we analyzed in 7, the Science 16 December 1994 article on the role of a Herpesvirus already contained some cautious evaluations, mixed with some hype. Shalala's answer reflected only the hype of this article, as well as the hype in the 17 February 1995 article. In addition, Shalala's answer took no account of the subsequent Science article of 30 June 1995 reporting on the "controversy." Her answer, occurring almost at the same time as the "deep reservations...misgivings...Gallo's withering critique of KSHV .... " provides a typical example of the misinformation, contradictions, and unreliable mess which arise from officials in HHS or NIH concerning HIV and AIDS. Of course, Gallo is not a govemment scientist any more, but the "punch" he "packed" {according to Science} didn't knock out Shalala or the scientific cohorts who helped her prepare the response to Gutknecht. Caveat emptor.

(b) Readers can evaluate the rest of Shalala's response to the KS question on the basis of the differences of Kaposi's Sarcoma in Africa and in the U.S. documented in the Papadopulos-Eleopulos et al. article {see 3 and footnote 4), as well as in the statements of Harry Haverkos, making several distinctions between the various appearances of the disease. Haverkos also gave evidence against its being caused by an infectious agent. (See 4, statements by Haverkos at the NIDA meeting and in SPIN.) Shalala's answer is defective all the way through.

Whether Representative Gutknecht would follow up with a critical analysis of Shalala's answer, and possibly with hearings on HIV/AIDS, remains to be seen. How far the dynamics of the challenge to the HIV-AIDS hypothesis would further progress, and to what extent the credibility of the scientific establishment will be affected, is left to another historical account.

 

 
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