And then there's this, tying the attempts at an
AIDS vaccine to US dominance via Genetic Engineering
From: The Institute of Science in Society
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AIDS Vaccines Worse Than Useless?
The US administration is offering AIDS-ravaged
nations support for fighting AIDS tied to the
purchase of GM products. The main anti-AIDS
strategy is a class of vaccines that carries its
own risks. Prominent AIDS researchers have called
repeatedly for a moratorium as evidence of
hazards accumulates. Dr. Mae-Wan Ho reports.
The complete document with references, is
available in the ISIS members site. Full details here
George Bush has taken Europe to the World Trade
Organisation over Europe’s de facto moratorium on
GM imports. In the week of the G8 summit in
Evian, France, Bush blasted Europe for
perpetuating starvation in Africa by blocking US
food aid with anti-GM policies, and announced his
pledge of $15bn to combat AIDS globally, especially in Africa.
The UN Population Division reported earlier this
year that by 2050, the population of the hardest
hit nations will have risen by 400 million less
than previously estimated because of AIDS. "This
estimate could be the first sign that HIV-1 will
cause extinction of human beings in this
millennium unless an effective AIDS vaccine is
developed," said a commentary by Veljko Veljkovic
and colleagues in the Lancet, published in February.
The only AIDS vaccine to have progressed past
phase 3 trial, made by VaxGen, took 5 years and
involved 5108 gay men and 309 women.
Unfortunately, it proved ineffective, and may even be harmful.
In the 3003 white and Hispanic volunteers who
received VaxGen’s vaccine, a higher proportion
suffered breakthrough infections than in the 1508
controls: 6% vs 5%. Although the difference is
not significant, it could indicate a dangerous
trend. But the company is not releasing further details on the trial results.
A few days after Bush announced the AIDS package,
US Congress was denounced for tying support for
anti-AIDS research programmes in 50 countries to
their acceptance of GM products. This accusation
came from Julio Sanchez, representative of
Mesoamerican Trade. Introducing GM food to
hungry, malnourished nations ravaged by AIDS is
bad enough in terms of health risks, but AIDS
research programmes are heavily concentrated
towards vaccine development with a strategy that
introduces its own health hazards, as is becoming
increasingly clear. During the past decade, a
number of AIDS researchers, among whom Veljkovic
and his team in Yugoslavia, have been studying
the properties of the human immune deficiency
virus, HIV-1, especially its envelop
glycoprotein, gp120, which features in most of the AIDS candidate vaccines.
The gp120 protein is strongly immunogenic, which
is why it is widely used in vaccines, in the hope
that the body will produce antibodies against the
protein and hence protect against the virus. But
there have been many worrying signs that this may
have just the opposite effect.
For although the body mounts a strong immune
reaction against the protein, and produces
antibodies against it, those antibodies fail to
protect against the virus. One main reason is
that the virus is very mutable, and can readily
mutate to escape immune detection. In addition,
the immune reaction mounted against the original
gp120 undermines the effectiveness of the immune
system by over-stimulating it, so that it is less
effective to cope with new infections.
A recombinant gp120 vaccine tested in
HIV-negative individuals in phaseI/II trails, was
not effective in protecting against the disease.
Not only that, participants in the trials had
significant levels of circulating antibodies
against the vaccine before they became infected,
and came down with AIDS disease.
The vaccine could also be dangerous. A vaccine
based on the gp120 from the strain SF2, actually
suppressed the production of antibodies that
could neutralise the later infecting virus, while
boosting the production of useless antibodies
that were specific for the vaccine strain, SF2.
In other words, gp120 acts as a molecular decoy
to disarm the body’s antiviral response, leaving
it more vulnerable, and increasing the likelihood
of rapid disease progression in those vaccinated
that later became infected. This phenomenon is
called "deceptive imprinting" of the immune system.
Were those effects predictable in advance of the
clinical trials? Veljkovic and his colleagues answer a definite yes.
First of all, the part of the gp120 molecule that
plays the dominant role in provoking an immune
response is the V3 loop. The V3 loop and flanking
regions are similar in base sequence and
structure to the antigen-binding region of the
human immunoglobulin (Ig) (antibody protein). And
it has been proposed since the early 1990s that
this immunoglobulin-like domain in gp120 may
interfere with the immune regulatory network.
This is strongly supported by later observations
that the anti-V3 and anti-Ig antibodies of
healthy individuals are similar in structure, and
that antibodies reacting to V3 are present in sera that are HIV-negative.
In 1999, Howard Urnovitz and colleagues
identified a mysterious case of AIDS in a French
woman with no risk factors. Analysis of the
isolated HIV viral envelope showed that it had
homology to sequences found on at least 14
different human chromosomes. This opened a whole
new can of worms. Was this rare strain of HIV-1
the result of genetic recombination (reshuffling)
in the human genome, similar to that found in
veterans suffering from Gulf War syndrome (see
"Dynamic genomics", this series)? Antibodies to
human endogenous retroviruses were found in the
urine of patients with clinical AIDS. Thus,
vaccinating against HIV-1 may be tentamount to
vaccinating people against their own genes (see
"Endogenous retroviruses & chronic disease", this
series). Does that mean genetic reshuffling and
retroviral elements in the human genome may have
a key role to play in AIDS disease, as in Gulf
War Syndrome and other chronic disease?
Another piece of evidence implicating genetic
recombination is that the V3 loop and its
flanking regions are located between
recombination signals similar to those found in
human immunoglobulins, and also similar to the
Chi recombination hotpots found in many viruses
and bacteria. Consequently, the immunologically
dominant region of gp120 may be involved in
recombining with human immunoglobulin genes
resulting in autoimmune responses, and may also
recombine with co-infecting viruses and bacteria
to generate new pathogens. Evidence of such
recombination has subsequently been found in the sera of AIDS patients.
Many other observations have linked gp120 with
auto-antibodies that react against the body’s own
cells and enhance the infectivity of HIV-1, and
those researchers have also issued warnings against AIDS vaccines.
In fact, warnings against AIDS vaccines go back
to Albert Sabin, one of the most prominent viral
vaccine developers of the 20th century. "The
available data provide no basis for testing any
HIV vaccine in human beings either before or after infection," Sabin stated.
The current issue of Vaccine carries an article
evaluating the long-term safety of a range of
AIDS vaccines involving 3189 HIV uninfected,
healthy volunteers who were enrolled into 51
NIAID (NIH) - sponsored Phase I and II clinical
trials. It concluded that there were no adverse
effects. Veljkovic remarks, "This conclusion was
based on analysis of many important parameters
….Unfortunately, the key information - comparison
of the health status between breakthrough
infected vaccinated volunteers and control
subjects who participated in these trials - was
not reported, just as it was not reported by
VaxGen in the results of their Phase III clinical trial."
Unless this information is reported, says
Veljkovic, the companies and institutions that
organized these clinical trials are in danger of
committing a scientific and ethical misconduct.
It is pertinent to point out that transgenic DNA
in GM food and feed also carry recombination
hotspots, such as the ones associated with the
CaMV 35S promoter and the left and right borders
of the Agrobacterium T-DNA used as vector to
introduce transgenic DNA into the plant genome.
These recombination hotspots enhance horizontal
gene transfer and recombination. Furthermore, as
Veljkovic said, the recombination hotspots in
transgenic DNA may interact with the
recombination signals flanking the V3 loop of the
gp120 gene in AIDS vaccines to generate yet more exotic viruses.
Veljkovic and his colleagues have repeated their
call for an immediate moratorium on the current
clinical trials of HIV-1 gp120/160 vaccines.
This article can be found on the I-SIS website at
At 04:00 AM 2/16/2007, Michael Balter wrote:
>I want to make clear that I have no problem with
>anyone questioning scientific "consensus" on an
>issue, whether it be HIV causing AIDS or global
>warming. But it has to be based on something.
>Duesberg has been making the same arguments
>about HIV for more than 20 years, and the same
>snide remarks about scientists who think the
>virus causes AIDS, oblivious to any of the
>research that has gone on in the meantime. He
>has been too lazy and arrogant to even change
>his rhetoric to take into account new findings.
>That to me is a sign of someone with a
>pathological inability to admit he is wrong, and
>yet he and some of his cronies managed to get
>themselves onto the South African presidential
>AIDS panel. So if Mitchel has reasons for
>doubting the scientific consensus amongst AIDS
>researchers, fine, but let him tell us what his
>scientific objections are. Telling us that it is
>just a big phamaceutical industry conspiracy
>won't cut it, and telling us that he doesn't
>know doesn't cut it either. The scientists who
>study AIDS have rejected all the hypotheses he
>proposes, so he needs to tell us why they are wrong to do so.