PARASITIC WORMS are *NOT* GOOD for you!
Posted by Henry Bauer on 2008/07/24
According to HIV/AIDS theory, “HIV” destroys the immune system. One might then reasonably expect that malnourished individuals, or drug abusers, or people suffering from any illness or infection, would therefore be more likely to acquire a further infection—like, say, according to the mainstream view, “HIV”; and they would also be likely have a poorer prognosis for surviving than people who were not already ill before acquiring the extra burden of disease.
But even such uncontroversial and reasonable expectations need to be nailed down by specific clinical trials, so there are endless opportunities to qualify for research grants—without having to entertain a single novel thought. Consequently, “HIV/AIDS researchers” have studied whether “HIV-positive” African children infested with intestinal worms have a poorer prognosis than “HIV-positive” African children who are not so infested [ARE INTESTINAL WORMS GOOD FOR US? ARE THEY GOOD FOR AFRICANS? FOR AFRICAN CHILDREN?, 30 December 2007]. Other “HIV/AIDS researchers” have studied whether “HIV-positive” African children who have insufficient food have a poorer prognosis than “HIV-positive” African children who are properly fed [DRUGS OR FOOD?, 25 December 2007; FOOD IS GOOD FOR CHILDREN, 8 January 2008]. Yet other “HIV/AIDS researchers” regaled us with the startling finding that COCAINE AND HEROIN AREN’T GOOD FOR YOU! [a Golden Fleece Award, 13 June 2008] —not good for you insofar as HIV/AIDS is concerned, that is, of course: there’s nothing wrong with those drugs in themselves, in fact one should help users of cocaine and heroin to remain healthy by providing them with fresh, clean needles (ignoring that a range of studies have shown “HIV-positive” status to be more common among those NOT sharing needles).
Now Ruth M. Ruprecht* and nine collaborators from several prominent American medical institutions have confirmed that Schistosomiasis (infection by parasitic worms) makes acquisition of “HIV-positive” status more likely: “the hypothesis that parasite infection increases an individual’s susceptibility to HIV-1 has never been prospectively tested in a relevant in vivo model. . . . Our data provide the first direct evidence that acute schistosomiasis significantly increases the risk of de novo AIDS virus acquisition, and the magnitude of the effect suggests that control of helminth infections may be a useful public health intervention to help decrease the spread of HIV-1” (Chenine* et al., Acute Schistosoma mansoni infection increases susceptibility to systemic SHIV Clade C infection in Rhesus Macaques after mucosal virus exposure, PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases, 2 #7  e265).
That’s really good to know. Now we have—at last?!—a genuinely scientific reason to help sufferers from schistosomiasis get rid of the worms. The treatments are quite straightforward and inexpensive: a couple of days on cheap medications: “Safe and effective drugs are available for the treatment of schistosomiasis. . . . pills to take for 1-2 days”. After that, we can then begin treatment with the expensive antiretroviral drugs whose side effects are likely to be no less debilitating than the symptoms of schistosomiasis.
Of course, as Chenine et al. note, there had been earlier suggestions (Bentwich et al., Immunology Today 16 (1995) 187-91; Hotez et al., PLoS Medicine 3 #5 (2006) e102, pp. 576-84) that treating schistosomiasis would have corollary benefit in fighting HIV/AIDS; but here is “the first direct evidence”. (Don’t be put off by the fact that the experiment used a human-made simian-human virus, or that the experiment was carried out in monkeys. )
Important breakthrough research of this ilk naturally causes the media to take notice: “Parasitic worms may help fuel AIDS epidemic: study” (Will Dunham, 22 July 2008, Reuters) http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/aids_worms_dc;_ylt=Arwdg_f1cAJCXYaGcWq3xzSs0NUE
Lest readers be misled by talk of “HIV” “infection”, above, into assuming that we accept HIV/AIDS theory, I hasten to add that everything in this breakthrough research is entirely compatible with our view that “HIV-positive” status is, in the words of Dr. Christian Fiala, like running a fever. The more severe the health challenge from just about any source, the more likely it is that one will test “HIV-positive”—if one has TB, or malaria, or has been vaccinated recently against flu or tetanus, say, to mention just a few of the many possibilities. So humans with schistosomiasis are more likely than others to become “HIV-positive”; and perhaps that applies in monkeys as well.
Science Studies tidbit:
How could I say “Ruth M. Ruprecht and nine collaborators” and then cite “Chenine et al.”?
There’s a large literature in science studies and the sociology of science about authorship practices in science. There are interesting variations between disciplines, but in general and in the beginning, the name of the Big Cheese (BC) always came first. Some BCs, however, displayed an ostentatious false modesty by always placing their name LAST. But as time went by, the numbers of authors on scientific articles went beyond a couple or three or four, to nowadays perhaps an average of ten in medically related matters and dozens in particle physics, so there came into use a ready device for identifying who the Really Big Cheese (RBC) is: look for the footnote, “To whom correspondence should be addressed:” Uninformed lay people might imagine that this would be a secretary, but it’s not, it identifies the RBC.
Also nowadays, especially in medically related fields, one is likely to find a paragraph or two noting which specific contributions to the reported work were made by which of the co-authors: had the idea; carried out the experiments; did the statistics; etc. Providing this useful information came about for bad rather than good reasons: the increasing prevalence of fraudulent publications led to the idea that all the authors of an article should have read and approved it before publication and could therefore be held responsible for its honesty. On an embarrassing number of occasions, co-authors had disclaimed responsibility for fraud in published work by stating that they were not familiar with various aspects of the study or had not seen the final draft of the manuscript. That’s how it’s been going in late-20th and early 21st-century science.