< link rel="DCTERMS.isreplacedby" href="http://caltechgirlsworld.mu.nu/" /> Not Exactly Rocket Science: Debunking Duesberg

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Debunking Duesberg

Today Dean brings forward the arguments of Dr. Peter Duesberg, a once well-respected microbiologist who studied the genetic make-up of cancer and later went on to study retroviruses (like HIV). Duesberg argues that there is no factual link between HIV and AIDS. True enough, but using the same criteria, there is also no factual link between cancer and smoking.
For example, he says
"If HIV causes AIDS, why have thousands of AIDS victims never had HIV?
Why have hundreds of thousands who have had HIV - for many years - remained perfectly healthy?
Why does the discoverer of the HIV virus now claim it can not be the sole cause of AIDS?
Why has more than ten years of AIDS research - costing tens of billions of dollars - failed to show how (or even if) HIV causes AIDS or attacks the immune system?"

Insert the word "smoking" for HIV and the word "cancer" for AIDS (and the word "lungs" for immune system). Hmm. You can make the same argument, but NO ONE believes that smoking doesn't cause cancer. Duesberg goes on to argue that
"the various American/European AIDS diseases are brought on by the long-term consumption of recreational drugs and/or AZT itself, which is prescribed to prevent or treat AIDS."

Umm ok. Sure. So are you telling me that AIDS is a drug curse rather than a gay curse? Get off the stick, my man. This argument died in the REAGAN administration.

There's more. On his FAQ page, Duesberg says the following:
"Q4: According to our leading experts the new cocktail (protease + transcriptase inhibitors) seems to work or at least to keep the disease at bay. How is that possible?

A4: Contrary to the assertions of your "leading experts", the anti-HIV drug cocktails are failing in the US. A front page article of the New York Times , showing dying AIDS patients, issued a first warning in August 1997: "Despite powerful new AIDS drugs many are still losing battle (NYT, August 22, 1997).

By September 1997 the American press already reported that "AIDS drug cocktails fail 53%" (San Francisco Examiner, September 29, 1997). In view of this I wonder what your "leading experts" do to make the cocktails "work". Where did they publish their success stories?"
Hello, it's called mutated resistance. Viruses and bacteria have very simple DNA code(RNA in HIV). This can change easily over each generation, especiallgy in bacteria. In the HIV virus,in particular, the genetic code of the virus changes so rapidly that the code in two patients(A and B) infected with the same virus (A infects B or C infects A and B at the same time) is completely different after 6 months and cannot be linked back to each other by PCR. The main point of this easy mutation is resistance. Resistance is the manner in which bacteria and viruses promote their own survival. Resistant bacteria and viruses survive to multiply while non-resistant siblings die. It makes perfect sense that just as we have created superbugs by adding anti-bacterials to everything from dish soap to hand lotion, we are also creating superviruses that are resistant to the drugs we throw at them. Duh.

As for where the success stories are published, I suggest he start with The New England Journal of Medicine or The Journal of the American Medical Association. Journals he'll never see the inside of. See, there are great journals (NEJM, JAMA, Science, Nature, Cell, etc.) and there are good journals (Brain Research, ACER, J Neuroscience, etc.) , ok journals, and crap journals. Crap journals pretty much publish EVERYTHING and are known in their respective fields as a dumping ground for stuff that needs to get out for one reason or another. Sometimes a good scientist will publish the first part of their story in a crap journal to get it out and get a publishing date before a competitor, and then publish the complete story in a good journal later.

Next point:
"Q2: You appear to think that Azt may be the cause of the disease in stead of a cure for it: how is that possible when the drug has been used since 1987 while the first cases of this strange immune syndrome were reported in 1981?

A2: Between 1981 and 1984 the Centers of Disease Control in Atlanta and many independent American and English scientists have proposed that AIDS is a lifestyle disease caused by recreational drugs. See for example an editorial in the famous New England Journal of Medicine (vol. 305, p1465) by D. Durack proposing in 1981 that "recreational drugs [are] immunosuppressive".

Based on the lifestyle hypothesis of the early 1980s and my own research I have proposed in IAV that drugs cause AIDS. The drug hypothesis holds that AIDS is caused either by recreational drugs, or by DNA chain terminators such as AZT prescribed as anti-HIV drugs, or by a combination of both.

Indeed, I have pointed out that DNA chain terminators like AZT are much more toxic than recreational drugs such as cocaine and heroin. This mayhave created the erroneous impression that the many anti-HIV drugs licensed since 1987 are the only cause of AIDS."
Two words: Occam's razor. 1981, huh? So it took 15 years of widespread recreational drug use in this country to bring AIDS about? Really. By that same reasoning, it would take 15 years after recreational drug use declined to see a decrease in AIDS cases, which we are already seeing, and have seen already for a number of years in westernized countries. Additionally, how come it wasn't the greatest consumers of drugs who got sick first? By all accounts the gay men who were the first AIDS patients were less likely to be addicts than recreational users.

And what about AIDS in places and populations where drug use is low? What about people who've never done drugs? Don't tell me little Ryan White was shooting up every weekend. Ryan White had HIV and AIDS, but he never did drugs.

AZT is foul. It's a nasty drug. But to say it makes AIDS worse is at least in part a fallacy, and to say this is worse:
"Q3: If Azt is so toxic, how is it that the incidence of infected children has decreased from 25% to 8% (in Italy and in France) in babies born to mothers who had been treated with Azt during pregnancy?

A3: Treatment of HIV-positive, pregnant women with the DNA chain terminators has reduced the incidence of HIV in their babies from 25% to 8% in France and Italy as well as in the US. This is to be expected from a drug that was designed to kill cells including those in which HIV replicates. AZT was developed over 30 years ago to kill cells for cancer chemotherapy.

The first problem with this hypothetical triumph of anti-HIV treatment is that HIV is not the cause of AIDS. The second more serious problem that AZT induces abortion, and generates birth defects in humans and causes cancer in animals born to AZT-treated mothers. For example, a study published in 1994 found that among 104 AZT treated HIV positive women, 8 aborted spontaneously, 8 had to be aborted "therapeutically", and 8 had babies with birth defects such as cavities in the chest, heart defects, extra fingers, misplaced ears, triangular faces, misformed spine, and albinism (Kumar et al., J. AIDS, vol. 7, p1034 (1994), cited in IAV)"
This chicken lollipop is ACTUALLY SUGGESTING that the reason fewer HIV infected babies are born to HIV infected mothers is SPONTANEOUS ABORTION due to the effects of AZT. This is a complete statistical fallacy. A decrease in HIV infection of 17% in healthy, liveborn babies compared to other liveborn babies is IN NO WAY accounted for by the tragic deaths of other babies who didn't make it to term for whatever reason. The statistics don't refer to total pregnancies. They refer to actual live infants. This is a complete misinterpretation of the data.

But that's nothing new for Duesberg, I guess, given what he has written before. And, while I hate to bring personalities into it, citing Kary Mullis as supporting you looks good, but carries no weight scientifically. Sure Kary Mullis has a Nobel Prize. You almost HAD to award one to the guy who invented PCR. But the Nobel citation doesn't say that he came up with the idea while surfing. And STONED. Furthermore, very few of the friendly articles he lists on his web page are from scientifically reliable sources. I didn't know Spin magazine was a scientific authority, did you?

It ain't about politics. There's no conspiracy here. Just another snake oil salesman with an agenda to push and bells to ring. Duesberg is not getting published, and is not fundable (a worse predicament) because he is peddling junk science.

Whether or not HIV causes AIDS may in fact be open to interpretation, just not this one.


At Tuesday, December 28, 2004 2:56:00 PM, Blogger Dean Esmay said...

I would suggest reading Duesberg more thoroughly; the short Q&A stuff on his page is backed by much longer explanations of his thinking on the matter. I can tell you what his answer would be to some of your challenges, but I believe he could give you better.

And by the way, he doesn't think AIDS is a "gay curse."

More importantly, Duesberg is no longer a lone voice in the wilderness.

At Tuesday, December 28, 2004 3:44:00 PM, Blogger Caltechgirl said...

I never suggested Duesberg thought AIDS was a gay curse, I merely likened his reasoning to that of the "gay curse" proponents of the '80s, indicating that I think that "lifestyle choices" is too simplistic to be the main cause of the HIV epidemic, whether it's homosexuality or recreational drug use.

As for his arguments, if this is how he sums up his points, either he needs to rethink his logical fallacies or make a better summary of his thoughts, especially as his responses are the direct representatives of his views on his own web site.

Duesberg may no longer be alone, but between the statistical misinterpretation of other people's data and the huge holes in his "drug use" theory (see my smoking example), it seems to me that the chorus is crying "Wolf" at the top of their lungs.

At Tuesday, December 28, 2004 3:44:00 PM, Blogger Dean Esmay said...

By the way, I would be extremely interested in reading your review of Oncogenes, Aneuploidy, and AIDS: A Scientific Life and Times of Peter H. Duesberg.

I might even pay money to read it. It's already on my own wish list.

At Tuesday, December 28, 2004 3:46:00 PM, Blogger Dean Esmay said...

By the way, are you aware that Duesberg is generally credited with being one of the very first people (if not the very first, I can't remember) to actually prove the existence of retroviruses?

At Tuesday, December 28, 2004 4:07:00 PM, Blogger Caltechgirl said...

It wouldn't surprise me if Duesberg was at one time the leading expert on retroviruses, oncogenes, or any of the related fields of study. Even the most brilliant people can make serious logical mistakes.

I can see how he would have a tough time following the HIV story. But that doesn't mean that recreational drug use is any more likely.

It seems to me he that Maor is right in saying that Duesberg demands a higher standard from his opponents than he does from himself.

At Wednesday, December 29, 2004 3:27:00 PM, Blogger Silvermine said...

I've been enjoying your comment's on Dean's site.

Of course, you make me start to regret dropping out of grad school. I could be about to get my big PhD now, too. (Started in 1998, dropped out in 1999. I couldn't get into my top FIVE labs, and the profs all kept telling me to go to labs they should have known I had no interest in. Ah well. I guess they saw who they thought I was, but never actually listened to me.)

Good luck!

At Wednesday, January 05, 2005 8:56:00 PM, Blogger Robert said...

Smoking isn't a virus, last time I looked.

At Tuesday, January 11, 2005 1:57:00 AM, Blogger Francis Bacon said...

Dear Caltechgirl,

I hope you will forgive me, but your postings on Duesberg and Bialy on your site and on Dean Esmay's are based on under-research, to put it kindly. You haven't read Bialy's book, even though you say you admire George Miklos for another article in Nature Biotechnology (I think that is the one you meant). Read the book, and the last article Duesberg wrote on the topic on the Journal of Biosciences (Indian Academy of Science), then make your assertions about HIV causing AIDS, "Period."
You will in fact be left in the position of not knowing a single scientific reason for believing in this absurd theory, which has an inconsistency with science, logic, evidence and even common sense in every statement it asserts. You will also have some greater well merited respect for Peter Duesberg, I predict.

One of the great problems in paradigm review and replacement in science is that people such as yourself innocently develop such unwonted certainty without actually properly reviewing the evidence and the reasoning behind a ruling paradigm, and feel free to indulge their apparently tribal emotions in disparaging the critic. This is a betrayal of science. Again forgive me, but the well reasoned but underresearched rationalizations you have enthusiastically developed to support your belief in the sanctity of the idea on which your most prominent colleagues have based their careers and their own opinions (one probably connected with the other, judging from alll the evidence I have seen) are the kind of thing you have to guard against if you are interested in science as a search for truth about the world.

Sorry if I sound too arrogant. I am trying to avoid pomposity and I hope you will agree with me when you finish reading Bialy's book. I must say it is a bad sign that you even hesitate to buy it. Are you aware it is more illuminating about the way people behave (badly) in this kind of matter in science than anything published in ten years?

You'll enjoy it, I predict..

At Sunday, January 16, 2005 2:23:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey look! It's Anthony Liversidge again relentlessly shilling for Bialy's book! For someone who calls themself a "journalist" you might want to work on that whole bias thing. But then what else can we expect from someone who served as editor for a magazine that frequently published UFO reports.


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