the AIDS Virus, Peter H. Duesberg
1996, 720 pages, ISBN 0-89526-470-6.
Review- Washington Times
Current theory holds that AIDS is caused by HIV. At least one scientist
calls this crazy.
To his friends, Peter H. Duesberg is a "prince of science"
and he certainly possesses impressive credentials. A professor of
molecular and cell biology at the University of California at Berkeley,
Duesberg is a member of the prestigious National Academy of Sciences,
whose associates are elected to the organization by the 1,600 fellow
members. He is also a recipient of a seven-year Outstanding Investigator
Grant from the National Institutes of Health, or NIH, the federal
government's premiere medical agency.
But to his detractors, who are legion, Duesberg is at best a maverick
who refuses to accept facts held as dogma by his colleagues or at
worst a kook who perversely refuses to submit to the obvious, perhaps
out of a desire to grab headlines.
For the past decade, the 59-year-old Duesberg has been the nation's
most outspoken opponent of the long-accepted-as-fact proposition
that HIV, or human immunodeficiency virus, causes AIDS, the well-known
acronym for acquired immune deficiency syndrome. HIV destroys the
body's natural immune system - the incubation period can be 10 years
or more - leaving the body vulnerable to opportunistic diseases
such as tuberculosis, pneumonia and cancer, which kill the victim.
The persistent Duesberg recently renewed the battle with Inventing
the AIDS Virus, a closely argued 711-page book in which the Berkeley
professor (and pioneer researcher in retroviruses, the family of
viruses to which HIV belongs) details his arguments and challenges
fellow scientists to answer them - a possibility he deems remote.
Scientists, he tells Insight from his laboratory in Berkeley, "have
sacrificed academic freedom and self-correcting debate to conformism."
Duesberg's beef with the HIV-AIDS hypothesis: It's "sloppy
science." The claim that AIDS is caused by HIV was announced,
suddenly, at a 1984 NIH press conference held by scientist Robert
Gallo and Margaret Heckler, President Reagan's secretary of health
and human services. The discovery was made public, Duesberg points
out, without the standard scientific practice of peer review, whereby
scientists who specialize in a given field evaluate the research
of their colleagues.
Why did the scientific establishment rush to judgment?
Groups such as NIH were under enormous pressure to find the answer
to the growing number of AIDS cases in the early 1980s, Duesberg
says. It then became impossible to admit there might be doubts about
HIV and AIDS because billions of federal dollars were pouring into
research establishing their connection. "The commercialization!"
exclaims Duesberg. "Twenty years ago, it would have been regarded
as an intolerable conflict - a commercial interest in the science
you're doing. But now laboratories cost a lot. Universities come
surrounded with biotech companies like a metastasizing primary tumor.
Professors are half-owners or hold consultantships amounting to
half their income or more. Scientific independence has been sacrificed
to federal money."
Had researchers examined Gallo's papers themselves, Duesberg writes
in his book, "they might have objected that some of his AIDS
patients had never been infected by the virus. They would have pointed
out that no virus had been found in any of Gallo's AIDS patients,
but only antibodies against it." These objections are basic,
Duesberg insists, because in both instances, AIDS researchers have
discarded views long held by science concerning viruses and ignored
traditional methods of scientific inquiry.
"Ever since Jenner discovered the smallpox vaccination, the
presence of antibodies in a body has been a sign of defense against
the disease," says Duesberg. In the case of AIDS, however,
the presence of HIV antibodies (which is what the AIDS test uncovers)
is taken as a sign that the virus still is potent. HIV-AIDS science
thus ignores the first postulate of famed 19th-century
scientist Robert Koch: To verify the causative agent of a disease,
"the germ must be found growing abundantly in every patient
and every diseased tissue." But the virus rarely is found in
the blood or tissues of AIDS victims, although HIV antibodies abound.
In Inventing the AIDS Virus, Duesberg discusses numerous instances
in which victims have died of AIDS-linked diseases but had no HIV
infection. Researchers have written these victims out of the AIDS
literature by redefining AIDS, he claims, carefully excluding everyone
without HIV - even those originally diagnosed with AIDS. Having
diagnosed the causes of AIDS incorrectly, medical science is using
the wrong approach to cure the disease, according to Duesberg. Its
most mistaken therapy is the use of the drug AZT. (See sidebar.)
Is Duesberg right? Almost to a man and woman, the many thousands
of researchers involved in AIDS studies would say not. As Gallo
and two colleagues wrote in a 1988 issue of Science, "Biology
is an experimental science, and new biological phenomena are continually
being discovered," arguing that a completely new virus such
as HIV should not be expected to conform to rules established for
entirely different organisms. Redefining AIDS as time passes, Gallo
and his colleagues claimed, was part of the process of learning
what the disease is. Two years later in the British journal Nature,
two prominent virologists admitted that "Duesberg is right
to draw attention to our ignorance of how HIV causes disease, but
he is wrong to claim that it does not."
For the vast majority, the HIV-AIDS connection is received fact,
the basis for further investigation. Alvaro Muoz, a professor of
epidemiology who first began to study AIDS 10 years ago as a faculty
member at Harvard University and who now is at Johns Hopkins University
in Baltimore, last year worked out a mathematical model involving
subjects who have tested positive for HIV but not come down with
full-blown AIDS. Muoz says that he and his colleagues found that
about "10 percent of homosexual men with HIV infection will
not have AIDS-defining diseases after 20 years," a finding,
Muoz says, that will help concentrate scientific study on these
individuals - called "long-term nonprogressors."
Nevertheless, Muoz believes HIV causes AIDS, as does Francisco
Sy, head of the International Society for AIDS Education at the
School of Public Health at the University of South Carolina. Sy,
who sometimes uses the word "pandemic" and sometimes "epidemic"
to describe the AIDS phenomenon, says HIV is "a virus capable
of spontaneous changes in its genetic makeup," able to create
"new strains, new varieties - I don't know what the right word
is." Sy says the virus' complexity makes him "pessimistic
about science coming up with a therapy, a cure."
Duesberg finds such talk objectionable. Despite its "newness"
and its malleability, he sees no reason - yet - to assume that it
so readily violates rules that govern the behavior of every other
virulent and pathogenic organism studied by science, from those
that cause the common cold to polio. What does he think causes AIDS?
Duesberg blames lifestyle - drug use, a record of contracting sexually
transmitted diseases and malnutrition. He points out that the most
at-risk groups (in the United States) are intravenous-drug users
and homosexual men, many of whom had longtime involvement with recreational
drugs, particularly "poppers" (nitrite inhalants) and
cocaine. Duesberg points out that the association of drugs and AIDS
isn't his alone. "It was the earliest finding of the Centers
for Disease Control," he notes, adding that extensive recreational
drug use along with promiscuous sex were common denominators among
the earliest homosexual AIDS victims.
The controversy has left Duesberg a scientific persona non grata
with few graduate students, all of whom are about to finish their
work with him with no funding. But he does take hope from the support
of 100 scientists who have formed the Group for the Scientific Reappraisal
of the HIV-AIDS Hypothesis. Kary Mullis, who won the 1993 Nobel
Prize in chemistry, supplied an introduction to Duesberg's new book
and minced no words in his support: "No one has ever proved
that HIV causes AIDS. We have not been able to discover any good
reasons why most of the people on earth believe that AIDS is a disease
caused by a virus called HIV."
Interestingly, there is one point at which Duesberg and strong
advocates of the virus theory meet. Both encourage people to avoid
recreational drugs. Says South Carolina's Sy, "This elusive
virus is hard to get. It's not like TB you can get from a cough.
It is a human behavior problem. We need to go to the root of the
problem. We need to have people ask themselves why they have behaved
the way they have behaved. Are multiple sexual partners necessary?"
Meanwhile, Duesberg insists he remains open to explanations for
AIDS derived from good science: "I don't want to reject anything
a priori. But if no scientific law is found [to explain the evidence],
it is just basic logic that it cannot be there. I'm not totally
stubborn." His point, he says, is that "in science it
doesn't help to defend [any hypothesis] beyond reasonable evidence."
DRUG OF CHOICE
Peter Duesberg believes that treatment with AZT, the most common
AIDS therapy (often administered to people who test positive for
the HIV virus) is the worst thing that can be done for victims of
AZT is a potent chemical that is shipped in containers labeled
with skull and crossbones. The treatment was developed 30 years
ago for cancer patients, then abandoned as too dangerous. Giving
it to AIDS patients, whose bodies have been ravaged by drug abuse,
is like throwing gasoline on a fire, according to Duesberg.
In his book, Inventing the AIDS Virus, Duesberg describes a disease
known as SMON, which broke out in Japan in the 1950s. "In many
ways, SMON anticipated the later AIDS epidemic," Duesberg writes.
"For 15 years the syndrome was mismanaged by the Japanese science
establishment, in which virtually all research efforts were controlled
by virus hunters. Ignoring strong evidence to the contrary, researchers
continued to assume the syndrome was contagious and searched for
one virus after another."
In the end, scientists found that the SMON epidemic was caused
not by avirus but by the misuse and overuse of the drug clioquinol
for treating disorders of the stomach. Once clioquinol use was abandoned,
Reviewed by Stephen Goode
Source: The Washington Times, March 11, 1996,