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The Potemkin Defence of Duesberg: Rescuing the Passenger Virus with the Missing Virus

According to the neo-Duesbergians in control of Rethinking AIDS, it’s strategically savvy to argue the scientifically flawed Passenger Virus theory because the important thing is to show that HIV doesn’t cause AIDS and the path of least resistance, so the argument goes, is the least radical counter to the orthodox HIV > AIDS theory. In particular David Crowe and Henry Bauer have argued that Judge Sulan’s ruling in the Parenzee case was proof that the Missing Virus approach is extreme and unnecessary. The argument is dishonest and adds insult to injury because it was Crowe himself who managed to change defence lawyer Kevin Borick’s strategy to conform with the Passenger Virus theory that HIV is difficult (but not impossible) to transmit sexually but harmless in any event. In fact, this change of strategy itself as well as its substance were soundly defeated in the Parenzee case.

But the neo-Duesbergian strategy has been tested even more directly outside the courtroom. Duesberg’s et al  Passenger Virus theory, set forth in Medical Hypotheses was critically examined both by us and by the orthodox HIV professionals. In both cases the neo-Duesbergians responded with rebuttals of the criticism, thus providing a test case for how well their strategy holds up under pressure.  It turned out that in both cases, the neo-Duesbergians almost immediately had to fall back on the Missing Virus science of the Perth Group to defend Duesberg’s passenger virus.

In our analysis of Duesberg et al, we concluded that Duesberg’s acceptance of the Orthodoxy’s claim that HIV has been isolated, and consequently the validity, at least in principle, of the HIV tests and HIV epidemiology, creates many of the same inconsistencies and paradoxes that it does for the mainstream HIV>AIDS theory. Duesberg et al notably used inflated antenatal statistics on South African HIV prevalence peaking at 25-30% in support of  the Passenger Virus theory, while at the same time dismissing similarly generated statistics on AIDS mortality.  For AIDS mortality they claimed instead that a count of the actual death certificates rather than estimates based on various models is an accurate reflection of conditions on the ground, and in this way, by accepting HIV prevalence estimates but rejecting the AIDS mortality estimates, they were able to create an impressive disconnect between HIV and AIDS, which is the core epidemiological argument for the Passenger Virus theory.

Duesberg et al. have since repeatedly affirmed that in their opinion these numbers, especially AIDS mortality, should be taken at face value, so let’s do just that: An annual mortality of 10-15,000 among HIV positives corresponds to about 2.5% of total annual mortality in South Africa. This means that either South Africans have an uncanny ability to differentiate between an HIV-related and a non-HIVrelated AIDS indicator disease in HIV positive people or the 25-30% of the population who are HIV positive only account for 2.5% of the total mortality plus those deaths that are easily classified as not HIV-related and thus presumably would not be counted as AIDS deaths (mainly in the “unnatural causes” category). But the latter are unlikely to make up for the missing  25% of total mortality, since AIDS has been carefully defined to include almost all common natural causes of death. According to Duesberg et al., then, HIV is a marker for excellent health and unusual longevity in South Africa. It’s hard to judge who is fonder of HIV, the followers of the Pathogenic Virus theory or the followers of the Passenger Virus theory.

Duesberg responded to the critique by distributing and endorsing, a defence of his MH paper written by Joyce Arthur assisted by David Crowe. In order to save Duesberg et al, the author(s) introduced the remarkable claim that the paper was simply “showing the expected (HIV) prevalence rates based on the orthodox data”, and that we should not be fooled into thinking that those rates are accurate or that the authors believe they are accurate. But the HIV prevalence rates cited by Duesberg et al were in fact not based on the generally accepted orthodox data, which put them considerably lower, but cherry-picked in order to 1) show the largest possible disconnect between HIV prevalence and AIDS mortality 2) show positive evidence of the Passenger Virus theory. If the authors don’t believe in the figures they use to advance their own theories it amounts to intellectual fraud. Remarkably co-author Henry Bauer all but admitted as much when confronted with the issue:

1. My apologies to many people for giving apparent comfort to Snout et al. in the article by Duesberg et al. which was rejected by at least 2 journals before making it into “Medical Hypotheses”. 2. Explanation — but I’m not asking to be excused. I should have been more scrupulous in checking successive drafts circulated among several authors. Perhaps I should have insisted on a footnote or the like pointing out that I neither support nor reject the “passenger virus” hypothesis while agreeing 100% with the main point of the article. Chigwedere et al. relied on spurious computer-generated estimates that differ from actual South Africa Statistics data by a factor of about 25. Perhaps I was wrong in thinking that the “passenger virus” issue isn’t important, just because it isn’t important TO ME. ( Public mail 26 June 2009)

If the Passenger Virus issue isn’t important to Bauer, one wonders why it figures so prominently in a paper he has co-authored for publication. It is debatable what is worst, intellectual dishonesty compounded by the dishonesty of Bauer’s mea culpa, or the indifference and sloppiness he confesses to in order to cover up his dishonesty. The Passenger Virus theory is the counter theory set up as an alternative to Chigwedere’s at al accusation, it takes up one third of the paper, and here one of the authors plainly admits when challenged that he doesn’t believe in it. This means that not only do the authors not believe in the statistics they use to argue their conclusions, they don’t even believe in the theories they are arguing for. Why, one asks, did the authors not argue for their real beliefs instead of publishing an intellectual fraud? The presumed answer is that it is consistent with the neo-Duesbergian strategy of taking the least radical path at all costs.

When  Chigwedere et al published their own rebuttal to Duesberg et al, David Crowe went solo on Rethinking AIDS court stenographer Celia Farber’s now defunct thetruthbarrier.com. Crowe attempted to go through Chigwedere’s points one by one but didn’t get very far, possibly because he never understood that Chigwedere’s argument hinged on Sir Bradford-Hill’s guidelines for assessing causality and so had no real notion of where he was going. On those points that have to do with HIV, Crowe argued as follows:

HIV has never been purified (…) The (HIV molecular) clone (allegedly infecting a lab worker) might have been pure, but where did it come from? Not from pure virus because there has never been any. (…) A naïve observer would assume that it means purification, based on the latin root “isola,” meaning “island.” But no, isolation now means what a virologist wants it to mean, no more, no less (apologies to Lewis Carroll). Isolation can mean the detection of a particular protein, p24, that is found widely in HIV-negative people and found only about half the time in HIV-positive people. Or it can be the indirect detection of reverse transcription, a process that is not unique to viruses, let alone HIV. Or it can mean cell death, the formation of giant cells (Synctitia (sic))  in culture that are never found in even the sickest AIDS patient. But one thing it never means is purification of the virus, separation of the virus from all other organic materials.

Needless to say, this is the Missing Virus argument being used repeatedly in Duesberg’s defence, by the same David Crowe who based his interference in the Parenzee case as well as the general strategy of the Rethinking AIDS organisation on the conviction that this approach is a “strategic blunder”. If we go back to Joyce Arthur, her “defence” of Duesberg has two legs. One is the “Duesberg et al don’t believe in the sources they’re using nor in the theories they’re advancing” argument we examined above. Her second argument is that the HIV tests are faulty and her reference is a blog post by none other than Henry Bauer, arguing that:

‘the hypothesized “HIV” – virions of which have never been isolated directly from “HIV positive” people’ is not what the HIV tests detect under any circumstances.

Naturally, David Crowe, Joyce Arthur and Henry Bauer all contrive to use the Perth Group’s Missing Virus science in their own and Duesberg’s defence without ever mentioning who originated it, but the fact remains that the  leading neo-Duesbergians, including those who hypocritically feign indifference to the Missing Virus issue can’t get a defence of Duesberg off the ground without making it the cornerstone of their argument.


One Response to “The Potemkin Defence of Duesberg: Rescuing the Passenger Virus with the Missing Virus”

  1. Gene Semon says:

    Claus, I think you’ve made the case quite well.

    The contradictions in the Duesberg mid-nineties definition of retroviral purification are readily apparent at this stage of the discussion.

    The “RA approach” tries to reconcile two impossible-to-reconcile definitions of purification. Duesberg’s strict NA-sequence-only purification sets up RA’s incoherence, as even the other side accepts in principle the necessity to purify VIRIONS of HIV.

    If HIV exists, as Duesberg claims, then one has to test “harmless passenger” by considering cellular proteins within “purified virions” that may lead to autoimmune dysfunction. These cellular proteins (e.g. Hsp 70) are well known inflammatory agents, and the literature is chock full of papers on disorders when they’re over-expressed.

    Thus, it’s not only a question of botched PG science by our dear RA friends; but, as usual, significant failure to think the whole problem through.

    The following excerpt (1) should make it clear why they can’t have it both ways – the actual science vs Duesberg’s fiat HIV. If the “HIV of the test tube” exists in vivo, it cannot be a “harmless passenger”:

    “Similarities in Host Cell Lipids and Proteins.

    Retroviruses and exosomes have a shared lipid composition that includes significantly higher levels of cholesterol and glycosphingolipids as compared with the plasma membrane (9, 17–19). Retroviruses and exosomes also share many protein components that are enriched relative to the PM (tetraspannins, GPI proteins and Lamps; refs. 3–5 and 20–23), membrane proteins that are present at high levels on exosomes as well as the cell surface (integrins, MHC proteins, etc.; refs. 3–5, 22, and 24–26), and numerous cytoplasmic proteins (actin, cyclophilin, tsg101, heat shock proteins, etc.; refs. 5, 22, and 27–30). Moreover, side-by-side analyses show identical host cell protein profiles for retroviral particles and exosomal preparations (31, 32). It should be noted that the host cell proteins present in retroviral particles and exosomes are not merely the abundant components of the PM (22, 23). Also, the host cell proteins in retroviruses are not just trace components, as some (MHC class II) can exceed the abundance of Env proteins (33, 34). Much of this data are from the HIV field, but similar results have been reported for other retroviruses (35–43).”

    1. Stephen J. Gould, Amy M. Booth, James E. K. Hildreth; The Trojan exosome hypothesis. PNAS, 2003 100 (19) 10592-10597

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