Articles

The Death Of a Truthful Man. Pierre Doupagne, (1923-2008)

It is with sadness that I have to report the death of Pierre Doupagne, the former technical assistant at the Laboratoire Medical de Stanleyville, (LMS) in the Belgian Congo. He died peacefully in hospital in Liege, Belgium, on October 24th, 2008. He was 85 years old.

Although he was not one of the four doctors based at the LMS in the latter half of the 1950s, Pierre Doupagne was the man whose skills underpinned their work - and in the end he played a significant part in the origins of AIDS debate that began some 40 years later.

HIV-1 in 1908? Another Sad Comedy of Errors from Michael Worobey

October 9th, 2008.

As forecast in my piece "Worobey's wobbly research", first posted on this site on March 19th, 2008, the Canadian molecular biologist Michael Worobey has just published new calculations about the age of the AIDS virus, HIV-1, which place its origins even further back in time.

His work appears in the form of a lengthy letter to the journal Nature, entitled "Direct evidence of extensive diversity of HIV-1 in Kinshasa by 1960", by M. Worobey, D.E. Teuwen, M. Bunce, S.M. Wolinsky et al.; [Nature; 2008 (October 2nd); 455; 661-664.]

Michael Worobey’s Possession of 1950s Tissue Samples from Stanleyville (Kisangani)

Michael Worobey’s first active participation in the origins-of-AIDS debate is believed to have occurred in late 1999, when Professor Bill Hamilton (a highly-respected evolutionary biologist, then rated by many as the “star” of the Royal Society) was seeking someone to accompany him on his second trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to test the SIV of wild chimpanzees.

Some background. Since I first met him in 1993, Bill Hamilton had been my mentor, and he wrote a powerful and highly supportive foreword to “The River”. In July 1999, after the book was completed but before it was published, Bill and I spent just over a week in the DRC, but we had some quite serious disagreements during the trip, which focussed on whether I was there mainly to help him with the collection of samples from local chimpanzees, or was also there to conduct my own historical research into Lindi Camp and the Laboratoire Medical de Stanleyville. We had obtained visas from the rebel government based in Kisangani (formerly Stanleyville) that were good for six further months, and Bill in particular wanted to return there to do more research. Since he and I were, by late 1999, still going through a cooling-off period (and since I was busy dealing with the response to The River, published in September 1999), Bill looked around for a companion in his own Department of Zoology at Oxford University, and came across a young Rhodes Scholar, Michael Worobey, who suggested that they also bring along a Canadian friend of his, Jeff Joy, who had practical skills and experience of living in the wilds.

Michael Worobey’s Wobbly Research into the Early History of HIV

Michael Worobey’s wobbly research into the early history of HIV.

In late October and early November 2007 there was coverage in several media outlets (mainly in the US) of a newly-published study entitled “The Emergence of HIV/AIDS in the Americas and Beyond”. The lead author was Michael Worobey, an assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Arizona in Tucson.

The Death of Professor Paul M. Osterrieth - and its Significance for the Origins of AIDS debate

Professor Paul Osterrieth's long struggle is over. The man who worked at the Laboratoire Medical de Stanleyville (LMS) between 1956 and 1960 (for the last three years as head of the virology lab) died shortly before Christmas, and he was buried on December 22nd, 2006 at his village in the Ardennes. I am reliably informed that there was a large congregation at his funeral, including fellow-professors from his last place of work, the University of Liege, at least one of whom spoke warmly about him at the service.

Smoke and Mirrors from Stanley Plotkin

In the past on this site [for instance in "Plotkin's Chums (1): Eminent scientists sign their names to falsehoods"], I have referred to identical or nearly identical letters written by Stanley Plotkin and his allies to TV executives and film festival organisers, urging them not to show "The Origins of AIDS" documentary. The reason they offer for writing such letters is inherently dishonest, for each letter is based on the false assertion that the OPV theory of AIDS origin has been disproved.

Apart from legal threats delivered through their lawyers, this letter-writing campaign has been one of the major approaches that Dr Plotkin’s group have used in their ongoing attempts to counter, and indeed to suppress, the OPV hypothesis.

I have received copies of many of these letters, which I am holding in reserve for an appropriate moment. However, I have decided that it worth posting details about one such initiative on this web-site, to give readers some idea about how Dr Stanley Plotkin operates.

Three Warnings About Potential Future Malpractice by Members of "the Bushmeat Group"

Updated 13/08/06

I trust that my response to Beatrice Hahn’s latest article “The Hollywooding of Science” has not only restored some balance in the “origins of AIDS” debate, but that it has highlighted the flimsy nature of some of the claims that are routinely made by key advocates of the bushmeat hypothesis.

Some of the more common of these flawed claims are that Lindi camp used the “wrong subspecies” of chimpanzee, and that phylogenetic dating analysis “proves” that pandemic HIV-1 existed in the 1930s, long before the polio vaccine trials. Of course, the most common claim of all by the Hahns is that they have “laid to rest” the OPV hypothesis. But not one of these claims stand up to scrutiny.

Beatrice Hahn. A Portrait of Scientific Certainty

Beatrice Hahn. A Portrait of Scientific Certainty: Doctor Strangelove in a Silk Shirt.

The Hollywooding of Science

"The Hollywooding of Science". Beatrice Hahn's latest SIV sequences from Cameroonian chimps: an alternative interpretation

Updated 5 August, 2006

If you're new to these issues, read this first.

Synopsis

a) The latest paper by Beatrice Hahn's team (B. F. Keele, B. H. Hahn et al: "Chimpanzee Reservoirs of Pandemic and Nonpandemic HIV-1") [Reference 1] features claims that they have discovered the source of pandemic HIV-1, the "AIDS virus".

b) However, on the basis of the evidence presented, this claim is unsafe. In fact, more than that, it represents a rash over-extrapolation.

c) The reasons for rejecting Hahn's claim include the following: (i) less than 1 in 200 of the chimp troops in this part of Africa have thus far been sampled for SIV; (ii) in reality, the new chimp viruses she has found fall far short of being "dead ringers" for pandemic HIV-1, as has been claimed; (iii) there are close physical and biomedical similarities between Pan troglodytes troglodytes (Ptt) chimps and Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii (Pts) chimps, which some believe should be regrouped into a single subspecies; (iv) members of some groups of Ptt cluster genetically with Pts, and vice versa; (v) despite their claims to the contrary, Hahn and co-authors have not established that Ptt (rather than Pts) represents the reservoir of pandemic HIV-1; (vi) furthermore, the closest primate virus ancestor to pandemic HIV-1 may have existed in a chimp troop that is now extinct.

d) The true reason why it is so important to Hahn's group to establish the Pan troglodytes troglodytes subspecies of chimpanzee as the reservoir of pandemic HIV-1 is that they believe that this refutes the OPV/AIDS theory, which proposes that AIDS began as a result of chimpanzee experiments conducted in Stanleyville, Belgian Congo, in the late 1950s.

e) However, their latest findings do not disprove the OPV/AIDS theory. For a long time, there has been substantial anecdotal and circumstantial evidence that at least some Ptt chimps were present at Stanleyville and/or the nearby chimp camp at Lindi. But a recently-unearthed Belgian article from 1965 proves that the Stanleyville doctors were working with at least one Ptt chimp in early 1960, and perhaps in 1959. Co-caging and group caging were routine at the holding centres at both Lindi and Stanleyville, meaning that viruses could have spread from this Ptt (or similar animals) to other primates (Pts and bonobos) housed in these centres.

f) Furthermore, it is far easier to postulate Ptt chimps, including chimps from south-eastern Cameroon, ending up in the huge holding centres at Lindi and Stanleyville than it is to postulate a human infectee moving from Cameroon to Leopoldville, allowing AIDS to spawn there - and only there.

g) It is also worth emphasising that because of recombination between SIV strains, the origin of pandemic HIV-1 does not automatically require the involvement of the closest viral ancestor genetically. [See below for further details.]

h) There are multiple problems with the latest Hahn/Sharp scenario of how the AIDS pandemic might have started in Leopoldville (over 600 miles by river from her alleged chimpanzee "source"). By contrast, the OPV/AIDS hypothesis is inconvenienced by none of these.

i) The discovery that Ptt were used in the Stanleyville experiments has more significance for the origin of AIDS than Hahn's latest data from Cameroon. Once again, the claims by Hahn and her buddies that "the OPV theory has been laid to rest" are revealed as empty bluster.

The Emperor's New Clothes: Beatrice Hahn and The Latest Mumbo Jumbo

Sadly, some scientists seem to believe that by repeating an untruth often enough, you can persuade the world that it is actually true.

One such group of scientists is that led by Dr Beatrice Hahn of the University of Alabama, whose members seem to be much more interested in trying to earn themselves grants and glittering prizes than in actually helping us understand how the AIDS pandemic began.

The Bushmeat Theorists Fail to Deliver Once Again

Background

The following article was originally written in December 2005, and represents the draft of a letter which I had intended to send to Emerging Infectious Diseases in response to an article published in that month's issue of the journal by a team led by doctors Nathan Wolfe and Donald Burke from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, USA.

How Academics Sometimes Assist With the Airbrushing of History

In February 2006, an important new book about AIDS in Africa appeared. Entitled "The African AIDS Epidemic: A History", and published by James Currey, it is written by John Iliffe, who is Professor of African History at the University of Cambridge.

New Claims from Paul Sharp - But Has the Source of HIV-1 Really Been Located?

Introduction

February 2006. In recent days there has been much press coverage about new claims by American, British and Belgian scientists that they have discovered the geographical source of AIDS. These researchers have apparently detected simian immunodeficiency viruses (SIVs) that are closely related to the AIDS pandemic virus, HIV-1, in the stools of wild chimpanzees living in the very south-eastern corner of Cameroon, in western Africa.

The Latest Scientific Evidence Strongly Supports the OPV Theory

[Much new scientific evidence about the origins of AIDS has emerged during the last year. The following essay is based on one that was posted on Brian Martin’s web-page in February 2004. This new version of January 2005 is considerably enlarged and updated. E.H.]

Professor John P. Moore replies to "Plotkin's chums (1)"

The following e-mail was received from Dr John P. Moore on November 24th, 2004. Entitled "Your recent diatribe", it is a response to my essay entitled "Plotkin's Chums (1)".

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