Last week, Hit and Run noted the saga of Christine Maggiore, a HIV-positive mother who leads a movement whose followers deny the HIV-causation hypothesis of AIDS and refuse to take anti-retroviral drugs during their pregnancy and obstain from breast-feeding. Maggiore's 3-year-old daughter died suddenly after receiving antibiotics for mild upper respiratory symtpoms, fever, and a earache. Three months later, the autopsy had reported "AIDS-related pneumonia". You can read more at the LA Times story here or at H&R.
The posts ignited a little cyber-dust-up over merits of arguments by self-professed HIV-dissidents and/or insurgents. Prominent critic Harvey Bialy appeared on the thread there, as well as one at Dean Emsay's Dean's World, to take on all comers. He and fellow dissident Peter Duesberg wrote a response letter to the Times, which Emsay printed on his blog:
The Silence of The LA Times
This is in response to the story you published yesterday regarding the death of the daughter of Christine Maggiore and Robin Scovill.
In order to have a diagnosis of 'aids related pneumonia', two conditions must be met. The patient must be HIV antibody positive, and there must be a clinical pneumonia. Whether Eliza Jane was in fact Ab+ is information that neither the LA Times nor the coroner's office has as yet made public. However, according to *all* reports it is acknowledged the child suffered none of the textbook symptoms of pneumonia, and had previously been in excellent health for several years. Thus the crucial second condition appears completely unsatisfied. (A post mortem finding of PCP in the lungs means nothing since it is 100% ubiquitous in human beings). Thus we are left to ponder the only significant fact, and it is one of omission, in your story. On what basis did the coroner conclude the child died of 'AIDS related pneumonia'?
After more than 20 years of attempting to get straight answers about HIV/AIDS from so-called authorities, we are less than sanguine that this latest, simple query will be satisfactorily answered.
Prof. Peter H. Duesberg
Dept of Molecular and Cell Biology
Univ. of California, Berkeley
Dr. Harvey Bialy
Institute of Biotechnology
Autonomous National University of Mexico
I wrote the following to Dean to correct some factual errors made in the letter:
First, their assertion that "a post mortem finding of PCP in the lungs means nothing since it is 100% ubiquitous in human beings" is patently false. While P. carinii is not pathogenic in immunocompetent individuals and theoretically a rare organism could be found under histologic examination, this would be a rare finding. I have conducted numerous autopsies, and never have found such organisms in patients without AIDS. But more importantly, any finding of a significant number of organisms (and that number for "significance" would be low) would define the case as AIDS, since almost every case of PCP occurs in AIDS patients. I fear the authors are merely planting a false seed for the inevitable report of PCP in this child.
Relatedly, neither of the authors' conditions for "AIDS-related" pneumonia, that the patient be HIV positive or that a classical clinical pneumonia be present, are correct. The absence of HIV positivity (or even a single test) means nothing in the face of an AIDS-defining illness. And PCP is known for often presenting "atypically" in a small but non-trivial number of cases (even with negative chest X-rays).
Trent McBride, MD
Resident, Pathology and Laboratory Medicine
University of Kentucky
You can read more about the arguments against the HIV-hypothesis here.
Read the government's detailed and well-referenced response to the myriad of arguments here.