If the HIV/AIDS blunder weren’t such a tangible, deadly tragedy for innumerable people, one could enjoy many laughs at the contortions of mainstream researchers as they pretend to explain the inexplicable and contradict their own long held dogmas without acknowledging it. For example, Kevin de Cock’s admission that there had never been and would never be a global epidemic of sexually transmitted HIV [WHO SAYS that WE’VE BEEN VERY WRONG about HIV and AIDS? (Clue: WHO = World Health Organization)].
Then there’s the shibboleth that circumcision protects against transmission of HIV, despite the CDC’s own finding that it does not (Circumcision and condom idiocies).
One of the longest standing and most robustly asserted dogmas has been that “HIV-positive” mothers transmit HIV to their infants — despite the array of actual studies showing that this is not the case, since exclusively breastfed babies are the least likely to become “HIV-positive”. Now the experts have discovered, instead, that breast milk actually contains a substance that actually kills HIV:
“Human breast milk may block HIV, mouse study finds”.
Google reports that this earth-shattering news was disseminated in media all over the world, including for example Britain’s Daily Mail and India’s Hindustan Times.
The original research piece is Open Access, freely available: Wahl et al., “Human breast milk and antiretrovirals dramatically reduce oral HIV-1 transmission in BLT humanized mice”, PLoS Pathogens 8(6): e1002732. doi:10.1371/journal.ppat.1002732.
This authoritative source doesn’t quite justify the avalanche of media trumpeting, though. Leave aside that the work was done on “humanized mice”. The authors still cite breastfeeding as a major way that babies become “HIV-positive”, merely say that breast milk strongly inhibits “HIV infectivity”, and they still laud antiretroviral drugs for pre-exposure prophylaxis:
Currently, over 15% of new HIV infections occur in children. Breastfeeding is a major contributor to HIV infections in infants. This represents a major paradox in the field because in vitro, breast milk has been shown to have a strong inhibitory effect on HIV infectivity. However, this inhibitory effect has never been demonstrated in vivo. Here, we address this important paradox using the first humanized mouse model of oral HIV transmission. We established that reconstitution of the oral cavity and upper gastrointestinal (GI) tract of humanized bone marrow/liver/thymus (BLT) mice with human leukocytes, including the human cell types important for mucosal HIV transmission (i.e. dendritic cells, macrophages and CD4+ T cells), renders them susceptible to oral transmission of cell-free and cell-associated HIV. Oral transmission of HIV resulted in systemic infection of lymphoid and non-lymphoid tissues that is characterized by the presence of HIV RNA in plasma and a gradual decline of CD4+ T cells in peripheral blood. Consistent with infection of the oral cavity, we observed virus shedding into saliva. We then evaluated the role of human breast milk on oral HIV transmission. Our in vivo results demonstrate that breast milk has a strong inhibitory effect on oral transmission of both cell-free and cell-associated HIV. Finally, we evaluated the effect of antiretrovirals on oral transmission of HIV. Our results show that systemic antiretrovirals administered prior to exposure can efficiently prevent oral HIV transmission in BLT mice.”
Archive for June, 2012
Posted by Henry Bauer on 2012/06/11
When at long last researchers find out how to keep HIV in check, that naturally makes news:
“Secret of HIV’s natural born killers out”
“Revealed: Secret of HIV’s natural born killers”
“SFU scientists contribute to HIV breakthrough — Natural resistance to AIDS may be key in developing a vaccine”
“Study digs into secrets of keeping HIV in check”
“People with rare natural ability to fight AIDS virus have potent ‘killer’ cells that recognise and destroy infection”
That’s just a sampling of what Google turns up about this just-announced phenomenal breakthrough. I was inspired to get the research article itself, published on-line ahead of print in Nature Immunology, 10 June 2012; doi:10.1038/ni.2342.
It’s a highly technical 12 pages long, with a rather technical title: “TCR clonotypes modulate the protective effect of HLA class I molecules in HIV-1 infection”.
There are 21 authors from 6 laboratories in 4 countries (Canada, Germany, Japan, USA).
The number of authors is greater than the number of studied subjects, who totaled 10: 5 of them “elite controllers”, the other 5 “HIV-positive” people on HAART.
Even the news reports cited researchers not involved in the work who pointed out that this in itself means nothing at all, given not only the small number of subjects but also the fact that “elite controllers” have never been found to be all alike in the immunological characteristics that seem to matter.
It is no mystery, of course, why such an inconclusive little bit of possible progress would be published: the vast majority of research articles are like this, adding no more than tiny bits of possibly useful information — LPUs, least-publishable units.
It is also no mystery, why the media would trumpet about it: Their attention was drawn to it by the paper’s authors, so that further grants and kudos would flow in their direction. After all, this work would not have been possible without grants from:
“Harvard University Center for AIDS Research . . . , the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation . . . , the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation . . . , the US National Institutes of Health . . . , the Howard Hughes Medical Institute . . . , the Mark and Lisa Schwartz Foundation . . . , the Intramural Research Program and the Office of AIDS Research of the US National Institutes of Health . . . , the Canadian Institutes for Health Research . . . and the Canada Research Chair in Viral Pathogenesis and Immunity . . . .”
The lead author, cited in the news stories, appears to be Bruce D. Walker, “professor at Harvard School of Public Health”.
One can only hope that he was not quoted correctly to the effect that “One person has been fending off AIDS since 1978”.
It would be a nice trick, after all, to have diagnosed “HIV infection” some 6 years before the purported discovery of HIV.
Not, of course, that reporters who cover such stories need know anything about the subject.
Nor, of course, that researchers studying elite controllers need know anything about the history of the discovery of “HIV”.