DUESBERG CLAIMS CONTINUUM AWARD
In 1983, Montagnier et al 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 (1) and in 17 million healthy people (2).
Eleni Papadopulos, Val Turner, John Papadimitriou, David Causer, Bruce
Hedland-Thomas & Barry Page (3) and Stefan Lanka (4) 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"(3)); and (ii) antibodies against
HIV are not specific (5). 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 these criteria, eg. particles and proteins, could reflect non-viral
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 1996 issue
a "Missing virus! £1000 reward"(6) for proof of the isolation
of HIV, and the reward was reposted "105 days later...we're still
waiting"(7) in the March/April, 1996 issue together with my preliminary
"reward claim... Cordially yours, Peter Duesberg"(8,9). 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
(10), and have now been raised even further by a £25,000 reward from
James Whitehead from the International AIDS Freedom Network (IAFN), London
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. In view of this I can base my claim for the isolation of HIV on
the most rigorous method available to date, i.e. 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 Continuum's missing
virus reward (6). 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 (13-15). Such clones are totally
free of all viral and cellular proteins, and cellular contaminants that
co-purify with virus. These clones produce infectious virus that is neutralized
by specific antisera from AIDS patients. For example, virus produced by
infectious HIV-2 DNA is neutralized by antiserum from HIV-2 but not from
HIV-1-infected people (15).
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 Continuum.
(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 4E9150,
or 1 in 10E4500 - extremely close to zero! Since the odds that a given
nucleotide of any DNA is either A, G, C or T are in 1 in 4, the odds that
any DNA has the same sequence of 9150 nucleotides as HIV-1 or HIV-2 are
only 1 in 4E9150.
Thanks to 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 that rather unreliable HIV antibody-test
But 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 a 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 of 409 antibody-posuitives
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 (16).
The high sequence specificity of HIV DNAs is translated into the specificity
of their proteins, eg. antibodies against HIV-1 do not neutralize HIV-1
(sic) and vice versa (15).
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 could possibly
get. The retrovirus encoded by this infectious DNA reacts with the same
antibodies that cross-react 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 in 4E9500 - 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. *
Source: Continuum July./Aug. 1996
1. Duesberg PH: The HIV gap in national statistics. Bio/Technology
2. World Health Organisation: The current Global Situation
of the HIV/AIDS Pandemic. Geneva (Jan 1995).
3. Papadopulos-Eleopulos E, Turner VF, Papadimitriou JM,
Causer D, Hedland-Thomas B and Page BAP: A critical analysis of the HIV-T4-cell-AIDS
hypothesis, Genetica 95:5-24 (1995).
4. Lanka S: HIV reality or artifact? Continuum 3/1:4-9
5. Papadopulos-Eleopulos E, Turner VF and Papadimitriou
JM: Is a positive Western blot proof of HIV infection? Bioi?technology
6. The Jody Wells Memorial Prize: Missing Virus! £1,000
Reward. Continuum 3/5:4 (Jan/Feb 1996).
7. Christie H: 105 days... we're still waiting. Continuum
3/6:5 (March/April 1996).
8. Duesberg P: Reward Claim (letter). Continuum 3/6:18
9. Christie H: Letter to Peter Duesberg (1996).
10. Alex Russell: Letter to Peter Duesberg (2/28/96).
11. Letter from Fred Cline, San Francisco, Representative
of the IAFN (2/4/96).
12. Alex Russell: Letter to Fred Cline, undated (April
13. Fisher AG, Collalti E, Ratner L, Gallo RC and Wong-Staal
F: A molecular clone of HTLV-III with biological activity. Nature (London)
14. Levy JA, Cheng-Mayer C, Dina D and Luciw PA: AIDS
retrovirus (ARV-2) clone replicates in transfected human and animal fibroblasts.
Science 232:998-1001 (1986).
15. Barnett SW, Quiroga M, Werner Am, Dina D and Levy
JA: Distinguishing features of an infectious molecular clone of the highly
divergent and non0-cytopathic human immunodeficiency virus type 2 UC1 strain.
J Virol. 67:1006-1014 (1993).
16. Jackson JB, Kwok SY, Sninsky JJ, Hopsicker JS, Sannerud
KJ, Rhame FS, Henry J, Simpson M and Balfour HH Jr.: Human immunodeficiency
virus type 1 detected in all seropositive symptomatic and asymptomatic
individuals. J. Clin. Microbiol. 28:16-19 (1990).