Genetica 95: 25-50, 1995
FACTOR VIII, HIV AND AIDS IN HAEMOPHILIACS: AN ANALYSIS OF THEIR
Eleni Papadopulos-Eleopulos,1 Valendar F.Turner,2
John M. Papadimitriou3 & David Causer1
1: Department of Medical Physics, 2: Department of Emergency
Medicine, Royal Perth Hospital, Perth, Western Australia; 3: Department
of Pathology, University of Western Australia.
There are three steps in the revelation of any truth: in the first,
it is ridiculed; in the second, it is resisted; in the third, it is considered
In this review, the association between the Acquired Immune Deficiency
Syndrome (AIDS) and haemophilia has been carefully examined, especially
the data that have been interpreted as indicating transmission of the human
immunodeficiency virus (HIV) to the recipients of purportedly contaminated
factor VIII preparations. In our view, the published data do not prove
the hypothesis that such transmission occurs and therefore HIV cannot account
for AIDS in haemophiliacs.
Currently, it is accepted that many patients with haemophilia have become
HIV infected and/or developed the AID clinical syndrome as a direct result
of the transfusion of factor VIII preparations contaminated with this particular
virus. That this is indeed the case requires proof:
1. of the existence of a unique, infectious retrovirus, HIV. (For a
critical discussion of this issue see Papadopulos-Eleopulos, 1988, Papadopulos-
Eleopulos et al., 1992, Papadopulos-Eleopulos et al., 1993a, Papadopulos-
Eleopulos et al., 1993b);
2. of the existence of HIV in factor VIII preparations;
3. of the existence of HIV in haemophiliacs;
4. that HIV is necessary and sufficient for the decrease in T4 cells
observed in haemophiliacs;
5. that HIV and a decrease in T4 lymphocytes are necessary and sufficient
for the development of the clinical AID syndrome.
Factor VIII and HIV
Since factor VIII is made from plasma, as a first step in proving contamination
of this blood product with HIV, evidence must be presented that infectious
viral particles with morphological characteristics attributed to HIV, are
present in the plasma of "HIV infected" individuals. Then it
must be shown that HIV can survive (a) the time between blood collection
and freezing of plasma; (b) the freezing and thawing itself; © the
process of manufacturing factor VIII from thawed plasma. In other words,
as Jay Levy succinctly expressed in 1989, it is "important to know
whether retroviruses could survive the preparation involved in producing
Factor VIII concentrates. Otherwise, AIDS in many haemophiliacs [a minority
may have other risk factors] could not be explained" (Levy, 1989).
HIV in plasma
To date, there is no evidence of the existence in human plasma of particles
with the morphological characteristics attributed to HIV even though the
plasma of at least some "HIV infected" individuals is claimed
to contain such particles. Thus Levy, whose team reported most often on
the relationship between HIV and factor VIII wrote in 1988: "Human
Immunodeficiency virus in plasma or serum has been found in about 30% of
specimens from seropositive persons, generally at a concentration of less
than 10 IP/mL12" [IP=3Dinfectious particles] (Levy, 1988). Reference
12 cited by Levy is a paper which he published in collaboration with Barbara
Michaelis but this paper does not contain a description of the method used
to show that (a) HIV seropositive (non-haemophiliac) plasma was infected
with "HIV particles"; (b) HIV was "present in low titers";
(c ) the particles were "infectious". Commenting on his and his
colleagues' findings Levy wrote: "These studies demonstrate further
that not all seropositive individuals have virus recoverable from their
PMCs and that isolation from serum is not a common event" [PMCs=peripheral
blood mononuclear cells] (Michaelis & Levy, 1987). "Thus, cell-free
virus in body fluids is unlikely to be a meaningful source of HIV transmission".
(Levy, 1988). At least one other eminent HIV/AIDS researcher is also of
the opinion that HIV cannot be transmitted through "...products prepared
from blood, such as albumin, plasma, protein fractions, or hepatitis B
vaccine" (Blattner, 1989). If HIV cannot be transmitted through "cell-free"
body fluids (plasma) because it is not found in the plasma of 70% of seropositive
individuals and in the remaining 30% is "generally at a concentration
of less than 10 IP/mL", then it will be even less probable that factor
VIII prepared from plasma can be a "meaningful source of HIV transmission"
since, even if HIV were present in a plasma collection, it would be diluted
many times over during the process of factor VIII manufacture. This is
because factor VIII is made by pooling plasma obtained from 2000 to 30,000
individuals amongst whom at most, there will be only a few HIV seropositives.
Since factor VIII prepared from large batches of pooled plasma is ultimately
shared amongst many haemophiliacs, the load of HIV for each haemophiliac
will be substantially lower than 10 IP/ml.
Since 1989, detection of a 24,000 molecular weight protein (p24) in
cell cultures, (T cells from persons presumed to be infected), or co-cultures,
(of T cells from persons presumed to be infected, with T cells from normal
individuals), has been used to quantify HIV in cells, "cellular viremia"
(Masquelier et al., 1992). Detection of p24 in cultures of T cells from
normal individuals with plasma from those presumed to be infected has been
used to quantify HIV in plasma, "plasma viremia" (Coombs et al.,
1989; Ho et al., 1989; Clark et al., 1991). There are many reasons why
p24 cannot be used to quantitate or even detect the presence of "HIV
(a) there is ample evidence that the p24 protein is not HIV specific
(Papadopulos-Eleopulos et al., 1993a and see below);
(b) there is no relationship between plasma viraemia, cellular viraemia
(p24 in culture), and the titre of p24 in (uncultured) plasma (HIV antigenaemia).
"Only 45 percent of patients with plasma viremia had HIV p24 antigen
in either serum or plasma" (Coombs et al., 1989). "Plasma p24-antigen
titres before or after acidification did not show any significant correlation
with quantification by tissue culture method" (Weber & Ariyoshi,
1992). Nor does correlation exist between the "most specific"
HIV antibody test, the Western blot (WB), and plasma p24. With methods
which have a reported lower limit of sensitivity of 10-50pg/ml, p24 can
be detected in only 12% of HIV positive sera (Jackson et al., 1989);
(c) "Much of the viral protein secreted from HIV-infected cells
is non-particulate, and the proportion of (for example) p24 in virions
is a function of the viral genotype and the age of the culture. In extreme
cases, less than one percent of the total p24 and gp120 present is in virions"
(McKeating & Moore, 1991). [It must be pointed out that in the AIDS
literature, the terms "HIV", "HIV isolation", "pure
particles", "virus particles", "virions" and "infectious
particles", have a variety of meanings and include all of the following,
but most often without proof of the presence of a particle: (i) "RNA
wrapped in protein"; (ii) material from the cell culture supernatants
which passes through cell tight filters but through which organisms such
as mycoplasmas may pass; (iii) the pellet obtained by simple ultracentrifugation
of the culture supernatant; (iv) recently, very often, detection in AIDS
cultures of p24 (Papadopulos-Eleopulos et al., 1993a)].
In the process of preparing plasma for factor VIII extraction, great
care is taken to exclude cells. Even if some cells are inadvertently present,
it would be most unlikely that they would constitute "a meaningful
source of HIV transmission" since, like "HIV particles",
"infected" cells present in the plasma of a seropositive donor
would be diluted many times over by the plasma and cells from the manifold
number of non-seropositive donors from which factor VIII is made.
Furthermore, according to some of the best known HIV experts:
(a) "in early and intermediate stages of disease", (it is
unlikely that individuals with advanced disease, AIDS, would be able to
donate blood), the frequency of HIV infected cells in the blood as determined
by the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is 1/10,000 in the early stages,
and between 1/10,000 and 1/1000 in the advanced stages (Pantaleo et al.,
(b) with the PCR one does not detect viral particles or even the whole
viral genome, but only a small region, "a gene at best" (Wain-Hobson,
(c ) up to 99.9% of the "HIV genomes" in the plasma may be
defective (Sheppard et al., 1993) that is, one or several genes are absent.
Plasma processing and HIV
"Source plasma" obtained by plasmapheresis and fresh frozen
plasma from whole blood donation are best suited for the preparation of
factor VIII. The interval between collection and freezing of plasma is
approximately six hours (van Aken, 1991). The plasma is kept frozen for
lengthy periods, days to weeks, and is then thawed for processing.
Researchers from the Laboratory of Molecular Retrovirology, Georgetown
University, took two blood samples from each of ten HIV seropositive patients:
"One sample from each individual was processed immediately after phlebotomy
to obtain plasma, and aliquots of this plasma were used at once to infect
PHA-stimulated donor PBMCs as described. A second set of aliquots of this
"immediately processed" plasma was frozen at -70=F8C for 3 h,
and then thawed and used to infect the same donor cells. Five of the ten
immediately processed/immediately used plasma samples (50%) were positive
for HIV-1 using the p24 antigen detection method, while all of the corresponding
frozen aliquots were negative (0%). The second blood sample from each of
the 10 patients was kept at room temperature for 3 h prior to plasma separation.
Again, after processing, one aliquot was used for the infections while
another was frozen and thawed before use. In this experiment, only one
of the ten samples (10%) was culture positive after the 3 h delay and also
after the one cycle of freezing and thawing" (Dewar et al., 1992).
Thus, although these workers determined the optimum conditions for "HIV
isolation" prior to conducting the above experiments, they could "isolate"
(detect p24 in culture) HIV from only 10% of HIV+ plasmas which were left
at room temperature for three hours and from 1 of 20 (5%) HIV+ plasmas
which had been frozen for three hours. In 1984, Levy himself, using "mouse
retroviruses" reported that: "The virus titre (108 IP) was not
affected by mixing with cold (5=F8C) plasma. In contrast, incubation of
the virus with plasma at 37=F8C for 30 min reduced its titre 100-fold.
This finding accords with the report of complement-mediated lysis of retrovirus
by human serum" (Levy et al., 1984). Other researchers have shown
"freeze-drying parameters commonly employed under commercial conditions
for the preservation of protein solutions are not favourable for survival
of viral suspensions" (Damjanovic, 1987). However, Levy and his colleagues
claim to have shown that a retrovirus "can survive and remain infectious
after procedures used in the preparation of factor VIII (FVIII), cryoprecipitate
or concentrates". According to these researchers, when HIV was "added
to human plasma (5=F8C), no reduction in virus titre was observed".
Cryoprecipitate made from the plasma contained "a 10-fold reduced
titre". "Purification of cryoprecipitate by acid and glycine
precipitation and filtration to achieve a sterile FVIII filtrate resulted
in a further 10-fold reduction in virus titre". Lyophilisation of
factor VIII filtrate "lowered the infectious virus titre about 10-fold.
When this lyophilised preparation was then heated, very low titre virus
was detectable after 10, 24 and 34 hours but not after 48 hr of heating"
at 68=F8C. They concluded "our results indicate that lipid-enveloped
retroviruses (both mouse and human) if present in sufficient amount in
plasma can be found in infectious form in FVIII lyophilised products...heating
lyophilised FVIII for 72 hr at 68=F8C or the liquid product for 10 hr at
60=F8C will eliminate infectious ARV [HIV] if it is not present in the
plasma at more than 106 infectious particles/ml." (Levy et al., 1985).
1. Commenting on Levy and colleagues' findings Damjanovic wrote: it
is "surprising that HIV survived procedures used in the preparation
of Factor VIII before lyophilization";
2. Levy et al performed their experiments by "infecting" plasma
with 105IP/ml, while factor VIII which is administered to haemophiliacs
is made from plasma pooled from thousands of individuals most of whom are
not infected. Given that:
(a) the plasma from which factor VIII is prepared contains very few
or no particles per ml of plasma;
(b) the technique employed to prepare factor VIII reduced by a thousand
fold the concentration of any infectious particles present, even before
heat treatment; one would have to conclude that factor VIII prepared before
1985 could not contain sufficient HIV particles to be a "meaningful
source of HIV transmission";
3. Levy and his colleagues detected and quantified HIV particles "by
induction of reverse transcriptase activity in the culture fluids of normal
human PMC maintained for up to 1 month after virus inoculation" (Levy
et al., 1985). In Levy's laboratory, PMCs were cultured with interleukin-2,
polybrene and phytohaemagglutinin (PHA). To prove HIV infection, the activity
of the enzyme reverse transcriptase (RT) was determined using the primer-template
An.dT15 (Levy et al., 1984). Detection of RT cannot be considered proof
of the presence of a retrovirus, certainly not HIV, and in fact, the above
template-primers can be copied by all cellular DNA polymerases (see below).
Because of this, reverse transcription of the primer-template An.dT15 cannot
be used specifically to quantify or even detect HIV or any other retrovirus.
HIV in factor VIII
The belief, as Levy pointed out, that haemophiliacs develop AIDS because
they become infected with HIV by receiving contaminated factor VIII can
be entertained if and only if evidence exists which proves that:
1. factor VIII used to treat haemophiliacs is contaminated with HIV
2. the particles are infectious.
A paper entitled "Detection, quantification and sequencing of HIV-1
from the plasma of seropositive individuals and from factor VIII concentrates"
published in 1991, is the only paper to claim proof of the existence of
HIV in factor VIII used therapeutically (Zhang et al., 1991). Using PCR
the authors tested 8 batches of factor VIII, all "unheated and prepared
before the introduction of donor screening for anti-HIV antibodies".
Two batches "gave positive results; in one case with the env primers,
the other with the pol primers". In sequencing their "HIV RNA"
they found that the sequences were "distinct from those of all published
HIV isolates and from any sequences obtained previously in our laboratory".
Despite this, they interpreted their signals as HIV and in fact quantified
the HIV and concluded: "the calculated amount of HIV RNA in both batches
of reconstituted factor VIII was only 2.5 copies per ml".
The minimum requirement for such an interpretation of a PCR signal (or
hybridisation in general), is prior proof that the PCR primers and the
hybridisation probes belong to a unique retrovirus, HIV, and that the PCR
and hybridisation reactions are HIV specific. Detailed evidence had been
presented elsewhere (Papadopulos-Eleopulos et al., 1993a) that the specificity
of the hybridisation signals in general and of "HIV" PCR in particular
have not been determined, and that the finding of viral RNA or DNA, even
if proven to belong to a unique retrovirus HIV, is not proof of the presence
of the viral particle. Some additional points are:
1. Most, if not all probes used for hybridisation assays, including
the PCR probes and primers, are derived from the H9 (HUT78) or CEM cell
lines. The H9 cell line originated from a patient with T4 cell leukaemia,
a disease which Gallo claims is caused by a retrovirus similar to HIV,
HTLV-I (Gallo, 1986). Recently, a retrovirus has been isolated from a non-HIV-infected
CEM (SS) culture (Minassian et al., 1993). Thus, the above cell lines contain
at least one retrovirus, if not more (see below), even when not infected
with HIV. Since even the well established method (Papadopulos-Eleopulos
et al., 1993a) for retroviral isolation (but which to date has never been
reported for HIV), cannot distinguish between retroviruses, one cannot
be confident that the "HIV" nucleic acid probes and PCR primers
are indeed specific for HIV;
2. The normal human genome contains HIV and HTLV-I sequences (Parmentier
et al., 1992; Schneider et al., 1993);
3. The specificity for HIV of hybridisation assays in general and PCR
in particular, can be determined only by the use of a gold standard. However,
according to one leading HIV/AIDS researcher, William Blattner, "One
difficulty in assaying the specificity and sensitivity of human retroviruses
[including HIV] is the absence of a final 'gold standard'" (Blattner,
1989). In addition to the above mentioned problems there are many other
difficulties associated with the establishment of an HIV gold standard
for PCR/hybridisation studies (Papadopulos-Eleopulos et al., 1993a). One
recently identified problem is the fact that there are "striking differences"
between the proviral DNA and cDNA in one and the same PBMC sample which
"could not be explained by either an artefact of reverse transcriptase
efficiency or template selection bias" (Michael et al., 1993).
4. The presently available evidence obtained without a gold standard
suggests that the "HIV hybridisation" is not HIV specific (Papadopulos-Eleopulos
et al., 1993a). Some additional evidence:
(a) to address the question whether the neuronal cells of patients with
AIDS dementia complex are infected with HIV, "the brains from 10 patients
with AIDS and neurological evidence of viral encephalitis and the brains
from 5 patients without HIV-1 infection" were examined using an HIV
gag probe. "The antisense riboprobe hybridized to cells known to be
infected with HIV-1. It hybridised to HIV-1 infected A3.O1 cells as well
as splenic and renal lymphocytes obtained at autopsies from patients known
to have AIDS. The probe did not, however, hybridize to neurones in the
brain sections from 10 patients with AIDS...Surprisingly, when we applied
the control sense HIV-1 gag probe to the brain sections from patients with
AIDS, we observed specific hybridization to neuronal cells. Similarly,
when brain sections from five individuals not infected with HIV-1 were
examined, the HIV-1 sense probe detected transcripts in neuronal cells.
Our Northern blot analysis confirmed these results and demonstrated the
presence of a 9.0-kb polyadenylated transcript in brain tissues" (Wu
et al., 1993). Thus, either the positive hybridisation signals obtained
with the antisense probe are non-HIV- specific or, as the authors concluded,
there is a neurone-specific 9.0- kb transcript that shows extensive homology
with antisense gag HIV-1 sequences and that this transcript is expressed
in neuronal cells of both HIV-1-infected and noninfected individuals;
(b) the finding of positive PCR in eosinophils has been interpreted
to "suggest that eosinophils may act as host cells for HIV-1"
(Conway et al., 1992). However, "Formaldehyde-fixed eosinophils nonspecifically
bind RNA probes [HIV RNA] despite digestion with proteolytic enzymes and
acetylation...When preparations are treated with amounts of ribonuclease
adequate to destroy viral RNA, the eosinophilic binding remains" (Natoli
et al., 1993);
(c ) negative controls and even buffers and reagents may give positive
HIV PCR signals (Conway, 1990);
One cannot but agree with Shoebridge et al that "until further
molecular biological and epidemiological studies are carried out, it will
be unclear as to what detection by PCR of proviral HIV-1 DNA, even when
shown to be HIV-1, really means" (Shoebridge et al., 1991).
Even if it is proven beyond reasonable doubt that factor VIII preparations
contain HIV particles, the particles could not be infectious. This fact
is of such pivotal significance it is essential to review the mechanism
of HIV infection as reported by leading HIV researchers.
1. Weber and Weiss, "The first step in any viral infection is the
binding of the virus particle to a component of the host cell's membrane...For
some time it has been known that the binding takes place when CD4 interacts
with an "envelope" protein of the virus called gp120" (Weber
& Weiss, 1988);
2. Moore et al, "HIV infection of CD4+ cells is initiated by an
interaction between its surface glycoprotein, g120, and the cellular antigen
CD4" (Moore & Nara, 1991);
3. Mortimer, "The gp120 surface protein interacts with CD4 receptors
on T4 cells so that the viral RNA can be injected into the cell" (Mortimer,
4. Matthews and Bolognesi, "First gp120 binds to the CD4 receptor
on an uninfected cell; then gp41 becomes anchored in the adjoining membrane;
next the two membranes begin to fuse, and the virus spills its contents
into the cell" (Matthews & Bolognesi, 1988);
5. Redfied and Burke, "Infection begins as a protein, gp120, on
the viral envelope binds tightly to a protein known as the CD4 receptor
on the cell surface" (Redfield & Burke, 1988);
6. Rosenberg and Fauci, "The initial event in the life cycle of
HIV is the high-affinity binding of the HIV envelope glycoprotein (gp120)
to CD4 that is present on the surface of cells" (Rosenberg & Fauci,
7. Montagnier et al, "The gp120 is responsible for binding to the
CD4 receptor" (Gougeon et al., 1993);
8. Haseltine and Wong-Staal: gp120 is "crucial to HIV's ability
to infect new cells" (Haseltine & Wong-Staal, 1988);
9. Callebaut et al, "The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infects
lymphocytes, monocytes, and macrophages by binding to its principal receptor,
the CD4 molecule, through the viral envelope glycoprotein gp120. The V3
loop of gp120 is critical for HIV infection" (Callebaut et al., 1993).
Thus, there is general agreement that the HIV envelope protein gp120
is crucial for HIV infection. However, agreement also exists that "gp120
is easily shed by virus and virus-infected cells" (Bolognesi, 1990).
Gelderblom and his colleagues at the Koch-Institute in Berlin who have
conducted the most detailed electron-microscopy studies of "HIV particles"
have shown that the knobs on the surface of the particles, where the gp120
is found, are only present in immature (budding) particles, which are "very
rarely observed". "Mature", cell-free particles do not have
knobs, that is, gp120 (Hausmann et al., 1987).
Regarding infection by retroviruses, as far back as 1983 Gallo pointed
out that "the viral envelope which is required for infectivity, is
very fragile. It tends to come off when the virus buds from infected cells,
thus rendering the particles incapable of infecting new cells". Because
of this Gallo said, "cell-to-cell contact may be required" for
retroviral infection (Marx, 1983). Since gp120 is "crucial to HIV's
ability to infect new cells", and since gp120 is not found in the
cell free particles, even if HIV particles are present in plasma or factor
VIII preparations, they will be non-infectious.
One must also consider the possibility that factor VIII is contaminated
with HIV-infected cells. Even if the plasma from which the factor VIII
is made contains cells, since preparation of factor VIII entails (a) freezing
and thawing which lyses cells; (b) sterilisation by filtration which excludes
cells and the majority, if not all, of cellular fragments from the filtrate;
it is most unlikely that factor VIII would be contaminated with cells.
Furthermore, even if the filtrate were to contain some cellular fragments,
they could not be a source of HIV because the synthesis and assembly of
type C and type D particles, and Lentiviruses, require the presence of
an intact cell. In conclusion, the lack of evidence of HIV particles in
plasma, the use of non-specific methods to detect HIV in cultures, the
lack of gp120, considered to be crucial for HIV infection in cell-free
particles, the physical processes involved in processing plasma into factor
VIII even before heating was introduced, make it impossible for factor
VIII to be contaminated with infectious retroviruses. It is not surprising
therefore that, to date, nobody has reported HIV particles in factor VIII
preparations. Thus, on the available evidence, HIV infected factor VIII
cannot be the explanation for AIDS in haemophiliacs. If factor VIII is
not infected with HIV then it is mandatory to explain the cause of the
"HIV-related" phenomena, that is, positive antibody tests, HIV
isolation, T4 cell decrease and AIDS observed in haemophiliacs.
HIV antibodies in haemophilia
By 1988 most, if not all haemophiliacs, (in the USA, Europe and Australia),
were tested for HIV antibodies and the vast majority of those tested were
reported as being positive. Based on the antibody tests, as far back as
1984, the CDC concluded that "These serological data, indicating a
high risk of exposure to LAV from heavy users of factor VIII concentrates,
support the contention that LAV may be transmitted by some blood products"
(Ramsey et al., 1984). However, the specificity of the HIV antibody tests
for HIV infection have never been determined. According to Philip Mortimer,
director of the Virus Reference Laboratory of the Public Health Laboratory
Service, London, UK: "Diagnosis of HIV infection is based almost entirely
on detection of antibodies to HIV, but there can be misleading cross-reactions
between HIV-1 antigens and antibodies formed against other antigens, and
these may lead to false-positive reactions. Thus, it may be impossible
to relate an antibody response specifically to HIV-1 infection. In the
presence of clinical and/or epidemiological features of HIV-1 infection
there is often little doubt, but anti-HIV-1 may still be due to infection
with related retroviruses (e.g. HIV-2) which, though also associated with
AIDS, are different viruses" [italics ours] (Mortimer, 1989).
The specificity of an antibody test, any antibody test, cannot be determined
by "clinical and/or epidemiological features". In the case of
the HIV tests, this practice may create several problems. Given the fact
that the vast majority of individuals who test positive are asymptomatic,
one must conclude that in these individuals, a positive HIV antibody test
is a false positive. Furthermore, the 1993 AIDS definition permits the
diagnosis of AIDS solely on the basis of a low T4 cell count and positive
HIV serology. It has been estimated that the new AIDS definition will treble
the number of AIDS cases compared to the 1987 AIDS definition (Brettle
et al., 1993), most of whom may be expected to be asymptomatic, and thus
a significant number of AIDS patients will have a false positive HIV antibody
test. Even if a patient did have one of the AIDS "indicator diseases"
(none of which is new and some of which are common), because:
(a) haemophiliacs are exposed to "an array of alloantigens (and
infectious agents)" (Levine, 1985);
(b) gay men and intravenous users are also subjected to a wide variety
of foreign antigens and infectious agents;
(c ) all these groups are known to possess a plethora of antibodies
directed against numerous non-HIV antigens; one would expect cross-reactivity
with "HIV antigens" to be the rule rather than the exception
and thus, in these groups, more than in any other, it will be difficult
to conclude that a positive HIV antibody test signifies HIV infection and
One cannot simultaneously use the presence of AIDS as proof of HIV infection,
and conversely, the presence of a positive HIV test as proof that HIV is
the cause of AIDS, as presently is the case. The specificity of an antibody
test requires the use of a gold standard. A gold standard in an alternative,
independent method of proving the presence or absence of the condition
for which the test in to be employed and in the case of the HIV antibody
tests the only admissible gold standard is HIV itself. However, the use
of such a gold standard has never been reported and may not even be possible
(Papadopulos-Eleopulos et al., 1993a). This is a view shared by William
Blattner: "One difficulty in assessing the specificity and sensitivity
of retrovirus assays is the absence of a final 'gold standard'. In the
absence of gold standards for both HTLV-I and HIV-1, the true sensitivity
and specificity for the detection of viral antibodies remain imprecise"
(Blattner, 1989). In fact, at present, there is ample evidence which suggests
that the HIV antibody tests even in the high AIDS risk groups (gay men,
IV drug users, blacks and haemophiliacs), may not be specific (Papadopulos-Eleopulos
et al., 1993a). Some additional data related to haemophilia are:
(a) haemophilia patients have hypergammaglobulinaemia and hypergammaglobulinaemia
correlates with HIV seropositivity (Brenner et al., 1991);
(b) haemophilia patients have anti-lymphocyte antibodies (Daniel et
(c ) in one study, 12% of haemophiliacs were found to have HTLV-I antibody,
(the molecular weights of HTLV-I and HIV-1 proteins are the same), 74%
anti-cardiolipin antibodies, 28% anti-nuclear antibodies and 85% immune
complexes (Matsuda et al., 1993);
(d) HIV researchers accept that "antilymphocyte, antinuclear and
other autoantibodies" give rise to false positive HIV antibody tests
(e) in haemophiliacs, hepatitis B virus seropositivity is a predictor
for HIV seropositivity (Brenner et al., 1991);
(f) at least one other group with chronic liver disease, alcoholics,
are known to have both false positive antibody tests and immune deficiency
(Mendenhall et al., 1986).
As has been already noted, by 1988, most haemophiliacs had already been
found to be HIV seropositive. However, the test utilised by many researchers
including Gallo, Blattner, Weiss, Montagnier and Chermann in papers published
as late as 1990, was the ELISA (Melbye et al., 1984; Allain, 1986; Eyster
et al., 1987; Goedert et al., 1989; Wagner et al., 1990). Although before
1988 some researchers used WB to confirm the ELISA, the criteria used then
to define a positive WB would not satisfy even the "least stringent"
criteria presently used to define a positive WB result (Lundberg, 1988).
A few examples will suffice to illustrate this point:
1. "Serological reactions with any combination of 18kd, 25kd and
41kd proteins of LAV were scored as positive" (Jason et al., 1985);
2. "A positive Western blot test was defined as the presence of
at least one band characteristic of antibody against an envelope protein
(gp41, gp120, or gp160) and at least one other HIV-1 characteristic band"
(Jackson et al., 1988);
3. "Serological reactions were scored as positive if there was
reactivity with the 41-kD protein of HIV or reactivity with the 24-kD protein
together with any one of several other HIV-associated proteins (18kD, 31kD,
51kD, 55kD, 65kD or 110kD)" (Lawrence et al., 1989).
Thus, it is a distinct possibility that if haemophiliacs who have been
tested using only ELISA, or even ELISA and WB prior to 1988, were reappraised,
a significant proportion may no longer be classified as HIV seropositive.
In 1984, a number of researchers from the USA, including the well known
retrovirologist Myron Essex, reported the finding of HIV antibodies in
haemophiliacs and concluded: "The present results suggest that exposure
to HTVL-III is widespread in asymptomatic haemophiliacs", but also
added "However, it is possible that a significant proportion of asymptomatic
haemophiliacs might be exposed only to inactivated HTLV-III rather than
to the virus, owing to the manufacturing process involved in the preparation
of commercial factor VIII concentrate" (Kitchen et al., 1984). But
the mere fact that some HIV antibody positive haemophiliacs have symptoms
is not proof that they are infected with the virus. (As we have already
mentioned, one cannot simultaneously use the presence of AIDS as proof
of HIV infection, and conversely, the presence of a positive HIV test as
proof that HIV is the cause of AIDS).
Later, the finding that haemophiliacs who received only heat treated
factor VIII (van den Berg et al., 1986; CDC, 1987) also became HIV seropositive,
was interpreted as evidence that these patients "may not have been
infected but rather immunized by preserved viral proteins" (Damjanovic,
1989; Jackson, 1989). As far back as 1985 researchers from the CDC wrote:
"It is possible that antibody to LAV is acquired passively from
immunoglobulins found in factor VIII concentrates...Likewise, it is possible
that seropositivity is caused not by infectious virus but by immunization
with noninfectious LAV or LAV proteins derived from virus disrupted during
the processing of plasma into factor VIII concentrate" (Evatt et al.,
1985). Thus a positive HIV antibody test cannot be considered proof of
HIV infection. Nonetheless, "Because the virus has been isolated from
the lymphocytes of about 30% of antibody-positive asymptomatic haemophiliacs
and because immune dysfunction has been progressive in other patients,
it is believed that antibody positivity is indicative of infection instead
of immunization in most, if not all, of the antibody-positive haemophiliacs"
(Brettler et al., 1988). According to other authors, "Strictly speaking,
detection of the virus is therefore necessary for diagnosis of an HIV infection
in HIV-seropositive haemophiliacs" (Schneweis et al., 1989). In conclusion,
the presently available evidence does not prove that a positive HIV antibody
test in haemophiliacs is proof of HIV infection.
In a paper published in the Lancet in 1984 entitled "Isolation
of a New Lymphotropic Retrovirus from two Siblings with Haemophilia B,
one with AIDS", Montagnier and his associates were the first to describe
"isolation of HIV" from haemophiliacs. The T lymphocytes of the
two children, one symptomatic and the other healthy, were cultured with
amongst other chemical agents, PHA, IL-2, polybrene and anti-human alpha-interferon.
>From the symptomatic sibling they reported the following findings:
1. In the culture, retrovirus-like particles;
2. In the material from the cultures which in density gradients banded
at 1.16 gm/ml:
(a) proteins which using the ELISA reacted with sera from a gay man
with lymphadenopathy and several specimens of the patient's serum collected
prior to the blood used for "HIV isolation". No serological data
is given regarding the blood from which the HIV was isolated. However,
the serum collected after treatment and clinical improvement was non-reactive.
In WB analysis a p24/25 protein which banded at 1.16 gm/ml was found to
react with the patient sera as well as with the serum from the gay man
with lymphadenopathy. The same sera did not react with goat antiserum specific
for the p24/25 of HTLV-I;
(b) RT activity which "showed a preference for poly-A-oligo-dT12-18
and poly-C-oligo-dG12-18 over poly-dA-oligo-dT12-18, a feature which usually
distinguishes retroviral enzymes from cellular DNA polymerases. The maximum
activity was obtained with Mg2+ over Mn2+ with poly-A-oligo-dT as template
primer as previously described for human retrovirus such as HTLV or LAV".
They also reported the finding of "viral" particles and RT in
the culture from the second sibling. In the ELISA his serum reacted with
LAV and IDAY2 (immunodeficiency-associated virus=F0the material from the
culture of the first patient which banded at 1.16 gm/ml). In the WB, the
p24 of IDAV2 was recognised by his serum. Montagnier and his colleagues
concluded: "Our findings are consistent with the hypothesis that retroviruses
such as that found in our patients can be transmitted by way of plasma
products" (Vilmer et al., 1984).
Using similar methods researchers from the CDC and the Children's Hospital
of Los Angeles reported in 1985 the isolation of HIV from 6 of 19 healthy
seropositive haemophiliacs (Gomperts et al., 1985). In 1987, another group
of American researchers reported the isolation of HIV from 16 of 66 (24%)
haemophiliacs seropositive for HIV, but not from any of the six without
HIV antibody. For this, patients' PBMC were co-cultured with cells from
healthy seronegative donors that had been stimulated with PHA. To the co-cultures
they also added IL-2 and polybrene. The findings in the culture of:
(a) RT, "An assay count of 104 cpm/mL (after subtraction of cellular
polymerase activity) was considered positive for virus", using An.dT12-18
(b) cells positive for viral RNA by cytoplasmic dot blot hybridisation;
were considered proof of HIV isolation (Andrews et al., 1987).
Using the same co-culture techniques and conditions as the above authors,
in 1988 Jackson et al tested "75 unselected hemophiliacs to determine
whether patients positive for HIV-1 antibody are actively infected rather
than immunized by viral proteins in non-heat-treated factor VIII or IX
concentrates". An "ELISA kit that primarily detects the core
p24 antigen of HIV-1" was used to test the culture. The finding of
two serial supernatant fluid samplings as positive, "with the later
sampling showing greater reactivity", was considered synonymous with
HIV isolation. They reported HIV isolation from "55 (98%) of 56"
haemophiliacs seropositive for HIV and concluded "that antibody-positive
hemophiliacs have been actively infected by HIV-1" (Jackson et al.,
In 1989 Schneweis et al reported that between 1986 and 1988 they were
able to "isolate HIV" from 70 of 211 (33%) of haemophiliacs who
were seropositive for HIV. "After March 1988 an increase in sensitivity
of virus isolation was attained by testing the supernatants of the culture
for the presence of p24 antigen (p24Ag) instead of reverse transcriptase
(RT)" (Schneweis et al., 1989). One year later the same authors "isolated"
HIV from 29 of 46 haemophiliacs (63%) (Wagner et al., 1990). As can be
seen, by HIV isolation is meant detection of one or more of the following
phenomena: rarely, virus-like particles and positive hybridisation signals
for "viral" RNA, and most often, RT and p24. Elsewhere we have
presented evidence that detection of these phenomena cannot be considered
synonymous with isolation. They can only be used for viral detection, even
then if, and only if, they are first shown to be specific for HIV. The
above phenomena have been discussed in detail (Papadopulos-Eleopulos et
al., 1993a) and it has been shown that none is specific for HIV or even
for retroviruses. Below some additional points regarding virus-like particles,
RT and p24 will be considered, (additional points regarding hybridisation
have been presented above).
Although the origin and role of "retrovirus particles" are
not known, they are considered ubiquitous and this is especially the case
in cell cultures and in pathological tissue. In 1969, Chopra et al, noticing
that "Viruslike particles resembling the C-type [some classify HIV
as a C-type] particles associated with mouse leukemia have been reported
in human leukemic tissues by a number of investigators" reported that:
"These particles have been observed in the density gradient purified
fractions of milk samples obtained from women having breast cancer and
from milk of a normal woman with a family history of breast cancer. A few
particles have also been detected in tissue-culture of a breast cancer
biopsy" (Chopra & Feller, 1969). Levine et al examined (blindly)
plasma of leukaemic and healthy individuals "A specimen was considered
positive if there were numerous double-membraned particles with dense nucleoid
which were about 100uu in diameter and comparable to the type C particles
described by Porter and Dalton. A specimen was designated as suspicious
if particles were found which were morphologically similar to those in
positive specimens, but were very few in number. Specimens with numerous
but less typical particles and "empty" particles were also considered
suspicious. All other specimens were classified as negative...In this study
the problems of false positives was largely eliminated by using ultrathin
sections of high speed plasma pellets". They reported that "Of
45 patients with "myelocytic leukemia, five with acute and four with
chronic myelocytic leukemia showed multiple virus-like particles. Seven
additional patients had similar particles in lesser numbers or particles
devoid of the dense nucleoid. In these 16 patients the particles were detected
when the disease was untreated or not responding to therapy. Three patients
with acute myelocytic leukemia and numerous virus-like particles in the
florid leukemic phase showed no particles while in complete or partial
remission. Numerous particles were found in the plasma of one patient with
acute lymphocytic leukemia but none were found in samples from 14 patients
with chronic lymphocytic leukemia. One suspicious sample was obtained from
a patient with infectious mononucleosis but 14 other nonleukemic samples
were negative" (Levine et al., 1967). In 1972, virus-like particles
with morphological characteristics similar to those ascribed to HIV by
some researchers (Lentiviruses), were reported in cultures of human brain
cells (Hooks et al., 1972). By 1974, researchers from the Koch-Institute
in Germany including Gelderblom reported virus-like particles in HeLa cells,
and Canadian researchers reported the same particles in cultures of marrow
cells from leukaemic patients (Bauer et al., 1974; Mak et al., 1974; Watson
et al., 1974). In conclusion, particles with morphological characteristics
ascribed to HIV are not specific to this virus.
Although at present some of the best known AIDS researchers consider
RT as being the "sine qua non" of retroviruses, and regard the
detection of reverse transcription in lymphocyte cultures from AIDS patients
not only as proof of the presence of such viruses but of HIV itself, according
to some of the best known retrovirologists including the discoverers of
RT, reverse transcription is a property of all cells, and is by no means
confined to retroviruses (Temin & Baltimore, 1972; Varmus, 1987).
"Reverse transcriptase (RT) was first discovered as an essential
catalyst in the biological cycle of retroviruses. However, in the past
years, evidence has accumulated showing that RTs are involved in a surprisingly
large number of RNA-mediated transcriptional events that include both viral
and nonviral genetic entities...the possibility that reverse transcription
first took place in the early Archean" is supported by a number of
facts and "the hypothesis that RNA preceded DNA as cellular genetic
material" (Lazcano et al., 1992).
As has already been stated, when the HIV researchers Andrews and colleagues
used RT for proving HIV isolation from haemophiliacs "An assay count
of 104 cpm/mL (after subtraction of cellular polymerase activity) was considered
positive for virus". However, the demonstration of higher levels of
reverse transcription from the cells of haemophiliacs is not proof that
the activity is due to HIV. How does one know that the higher activity
of these cells in not due to:
(a) activation "of cellular polymerase activity" by factor
VIII itself or the many contaminants present in Factor VIII preparations
to which haemophiliacs are exposed?
(b) the many factors (PHA,IL-2, polybrene) to which the haemophiliacs
cultures are exposed?
Even if RT were a property only of viruses, it is not specific to retroviruses.
According to Varmus: "Reverse transcription was assigned a central
role in the replication of other viruses [hepatitis B and cauliflower mosaic
viruses] and in the transposition and generation of other kinds of eukaryotic
DNA" (Varmus, 1988). "The hepatitis B viruses (HBVs) are small
DNA viruses that produce persistent hepatic infections in a variety of
animal hosts and replicate their DNA genomes via reverse transcription
of an RNA intermediate. All members of this family contain an open reading
frame (ORF), "P" (for pol), which is homologous to retroviral
pol genes" [pol=3Dpolymerase] (Chang et al., 1989). "Hepatitis
B virus (HBV) resembles retroviruses, including HIV, in several respects.
In particular, both viruses contain reverse transcriptase, and replicate
through an RNA intermediate". Because of this, it has been suggested
that hepatitis B infection should be treated with the same antiretroviral
agents as HIV infection (Mitsuya & Broder, 1989). At present, evidence
exists which shows that although the major target organ for hepatitis B
virus is the liver, cells other than hepatocytes "including peripheral
blood lymphocytes and monocytes, may become infected with HBV" (Neurath
et al., 1992). Lymphocyte stimulation in general and PHA stimulation in
particular is associated with production of hepatitis B virus from peripheral
blood lymphocytes in patients infected with HBV including "viral replication
in chronic hepatitis B infection of childhood" (Vegnente et al., 1991;
Sarria et al., 1993). It is of pivotal significance to note that 98% of
HIV seropositive patients with haemophilia are infected with hepatitis
B virus (Brenner et al., 1991). It is also of interest to note that AIDS
patients suffer frequently from bacterial infections and that "bacteria
too, have reverse transcriptases" (Varmus, 1989).
In 1989 Blattner wrote: "Assays for reverse transcriptase, the
unique viral enzyme, employ special oligonucleotide templates in the presence
of magnesium. A characteristic profile of enzyme activity suggests the
presence of a retrovirus, but false positivity arising from cellular enzyme
activity or false negativity because of low reverse transcriptase level
make this technique too unreliable for epidemiologic application"
(Blattner, 1989). However, there is no "characteristic profile of
enzyme activity" in the haemophilia cultures/co-cultures and no "special
oligonucleotide templates" are used. To prove HIV infection, all researchers
use the template-primer poly-A-oligo-dT12-18 (An.dT15).
However, this template-primer is not specific to retroviral RTs. As
far back as 1972 Gallo and his colleagues showed that reverse transcription
of the template-primer An.dT15 can be achieved with material obtained from
cultures of "PHA stimulated (but not unstimulated) normal human blood
lymphocytes", which in sucrose density gradients bands at 1.16 gm/ml
(Gallo et al., 1973). Not only is this template-primer not specific to
retroviral RT, but all the cellular DNA polymerases, =E0, =E1 and y, can
copy An.dT15 (Sarngadharan et al., 1978). In fact, in 1975, an International
Conference on Eukaryotic DNA polymerases (Weissbach et al., 1975) defined
DNA polymerase y, "a component of normal cells" (Robert-Guroff
et al., 1977), "found to be widespread in occurrence" (Sarngadharan
et al., 1978), whose activity can be increased by many factors including
PHA stimulation (Lewis et al., 1974), as: the enzyme which "copies
An.dT15 with high efficiency but does not copy DNA well" (Weissbach
et al., 1975). Thus, reverse transcription including that of the primer-template
An.dT15 cannot be considered specific to HIV or even to retroviruses.
The p24 protein
The p24 protein is considered to be coded by the HIV gag gene, that
is, by the gene which codes the group specific antigens of retroviruses.
As far back as 1974 Gelderblom and his colleagues wrote "While the
virus envelope antigens are primarily virus-strain specific, the bulk of
internal proteins of the virion with molecular weight (mw) between 10,000
d and 30,000 d are group-specific (gs) for viruses originating in a given
animal species (gs-spec. antigens). The major protein constituent of mammalian
C- type oncornaviruses with a molecular weight in the range of 30,000 d
was found to possess, besides gs spec. antigen, an antigenic determinant
that is shared by C-type viruses of many mammalian species including monkeys
and was thus termed gs interspecies (gs-interspec.) antigen" (Bauer
et al., 1974). As late as 1989 Blattner stated: "It may be feasible
to use viral antigen probes to look for cross-reactive antibodies, since
certain viral proteins, particularly the polymerase and gag proteins may
be highly conserved between subtypes of virus" (Blattner, 1989). Thus,
even if p24 were to be specific to retroviruses, it cannot be HIV specific.
Indeed, apart from a joint publication with Montagnier in 1988 (Gallo &
Montagnier, 1988) where it is claimed that p24 is unique to HIV, Gallo
and his colleagues have repeatedly stated that the p24 of HIV and of two
other human retroviruses, HTLV-I and HTLV-II, which Gallo claims to have
isolated from humans, immunologically cross-react (Wong-Staal & Gallo,
The whole blood cultures of 49/60 (82%) of "presumably uninfected
but serologically indeterminate" individuals and 5/5 seronegative
blood donors" were found positive for p24 (Schupbach et al., 1992).
The "HIV proteins (p17, p24)" appear in the blood of patients
(previously negative for all HIV markers) following "transfusions
of HIV-negative blood and UV-irradiation of the autoblood" (Kozhemiakin
& Bondarenko, 1992). p24 is detected in a significant number (up to
36% of patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (Barthel & Wallace,
1993). Detection of p24 has been also reported in organ transplant recipients.
In one kidney recipient (the donor was negative for p24 antigen) who, 3
days following transplantation developed fever, weakness, myalgias, cough
and diarrhoea, all "Bacteriological, parasitological and virological
samples remained negative [including HIV PCR]. The only positive result
was antigenaemia p24, positive with Abbot antigen kits in very high titers
of 1000pg/ml for polyclonal and 41pg/ml for monoclonal assays. This antigenaemia
was totally neutalizable with Abbot antiserum anti-p24...2 months after
transplantation, all assays for p24-antigen became negative, without appearance
of antibodies against HIV. Five months after transplantation our patient
remains asymptomatic, renal function is excellent, p24 antigenaemia still
negative and HIV antibodies still negative" (Vincent et al., 1993).
Using two kits, the Abbot and Diagnostic Pasteur, in one study, p24 was
detected transiently in 12/14 kidney recipients. Peak titres ranged from
850 to 200 000 pg/ml 7-27 days post- transplantation. Two heart and 5/7
bone marrow recipients were also positive, although the titres were lower
and ranged from 140-750 pg/ml. Disappearance of p24 took longer in kidney
(approximately 6 months) than in bone-marrow (approximately 4-6 weeks)
recipients. According to the authors: "This may be related to differences
in immunosuppression therapy". Discussing their findings they wrote:
"The observation of a 25- 30kD protein [the French researchers report
p24 as p25] binding to polyclonal anti-HIV human sera after immunoblots
with reactive sera raises several questions. This protein could be related
to a host immune response to grafts or transplants...Its early detection
after transplantation might indicate the implications of immunosuppression
therapy...The 25-30kD protein could therefore be compared with the p28
antigen recently described with human T-cell-related virus lymphotropic-endogenous
sequence...The characterization of this 25-30kD protein may represent an
important contribution to the detection of HIV-1-related endogenous retroviruses"
(Agbalika et al., 1992).
There are many reasons why the p24 detected in the sera and cultures
of haemophiliacs, like the p24 detected in organ recipients may not be
the protein of an exogenous retrovirus, HIV, but either a non-viral-protein
or the protein of an endogenous retrovirus:
1. Like transplant recipients, haemophiliacs receive material derived
from other humans;
2. Like organ transplant recipients, haemophiliacs are immunosuppressed
3. HIV cannot be "isolated" unless the cultures are mitogenically
4. The normal human genome contains many copies of endogenous retroviral
sequences (proviruses), "including a complex family of HIV-1 related
sequences" (Horwitz et al., 1992), a "large fraction" of
which "may exist within a host cell as defective genomic fragments.
The process of recombination however may allow for their expression as
either particle or synthesis of a new protein(s)" (Weiss et al., 1982;
Varmus & Brown, 1989; Cohen, 1993; Lower & Lower, 1993; Minassian
et al., 1993). Varmus describes as follows the genetic behaviour of retroviruses:
"During the virus life cycle, several interesting genetic and quasi-genetic
phenomena may occur, especially if cells are infected by more than one
virus: production of heterozygotic dimeric genomes, formation of pseudotypes
at high frequencies (particles with core proteins and genome provided by
one virus and envelope proteins by another), frequent deletions and nucleotide
substitutions, and recombination between related, coinfecting viruses.
[Recombination between retroviruses is surprisingly efficient but its mechanistic
basis has not been resolved]" (Varmus, 1988).
5. Cultivation of normal "non-virus" producing cells leads
to retroviral production (expression), "the failure to isolate endogenous
viruses from certain species may reflect the limitations of in vitro cocultivation
techniques" (Todaro et al., 1976). The expression can be accelerated
and the yield increased by exposing the cultures to mitogens, mutagens
or carcinogens, co-cultivation techniques and cultivation of cells with
supernatant from non-virus producing cultures (Toyoshima & Vogt, 1969;
Aaronson et al., 1971; Hirsch et al., 1972). For HIV isolation, in most
instances, all the above techniques are employed. Thus, even if "true"
(Popovic et al., 1984) retroviral isolation can be achieved from the cultures/co-cultures
of tissues from haemophiliacs, it would be difficult if not impossible
to be certain that the retrovirus in question is an exogenous retrovirus
which is acquired through factor VIII administration. For such evidence
to be accepted as proof of the existence of HIV, the activation of an endogenous
provirus or a provirus assembled by recombination of endogenous retroviral
and cellular sequences would need to be rigorously excluded.
Thus, although AIDS researchers acknowledge that:
(a) plasma is "unlikely to be a meaningful source of HIV infection";
(b) cell free particles in plasma lack the gp120 protein which is "crucial
to HIV's ability to infect new cells";
(c ) factor VIII preparations are cell free;
(d) the physical processes employed in the manufacture of factor VIII
even in the absence of heating, destroy both cells and viruses;
AIDS researchers claimed and continue to claim that "HIV"
has been "isolated" from haemophiliacs. However, and in spite
of this affirmation, the above data strongly signifies that the HIV phenomena
(particles, RT, antibody-antigen reactions (WB), HIV-PCR-hybridisation)
observed in patients with haemophilia, whatever they represent, are inconsistent
with the parenteral acquisition of an exogenous retrovirus.
Lastly, "HIV" has been "isolated" from children
(a) who had no other risk factors other than haemophilia;
(b) where each plasma unit from which factor VIII was made "had
been tested for HIV antibody, hepatitis B surface antigen and alanine aminotransferase,
usually within 2 days after collection" (Remis et al., 1990);
(c ) where factor VIII was heat treated at 60=F8C for 30 hours (according
to some authors HIV is "completely inactivated in the samples within
a few minutes", of heating (Hilfenhaus et al., 1990));
(d) where the source plasmas from which the lots of factor VIII were
made were retested "within several months after donating factor VIII,
and were found negative" (Neumann et al., 1990; Remis et al., 1990).
This is as close a proof as one can get that what has been called HIV
infection in haemophiliacs is not caused by an exogenous retrovirus to
which haemophiliacs have been exposed by the administration of factor VIII
It is generally accepted that in patients with haemophilia, HIV destroys
T4 lymphocytes leading to acquired immune deficiency. Although this view
has prevailed for ten years, at least one well known group of researchers
of AIDS in haemophiliacs, that from the University of Bonn, questioned
the above relationship between HIV and T4 cells as recently as 1990. "It
is not clear whether the virus-host interrelationship in HIV infection
is regulated primarily by the virus or by the host; i.e., are CD4+ cells
depleted by non- viral mechanisms and does the virus adjust itself to the
weakened defense? Or is the depletion of CD+ cells the consequence of the
spread and cytopathogenicity of virulent viral variants, which developed
at random from avirulent precursors?" (Schneweis et al., 1990). Discussing
their data a year earlier they concluded "The results suggest that
reactivation of HIV occurs when immune deficiency has become manifest"
(Schneweis et al., 1989). The question whether HIV leads to T4 cell depletion
or conversely whether T4 cell depletion leads to "HIV infection"
(particles, RT in cultures, antigen/antibody reactions, "HIV-PCR"),
can only be resolved by having direct evidence that HIV destroys the T4
cells of haemophiliacs. No such evidence exists. An indirect method of
resolution is the examination of the chronological sequence of HIV infection
and T4 cell depletion. Numerous reports from many well known researchers
of AIDS in haemophiliacs have shown that T4 cell depletion precedes "HIV
1. Mortimer and his colleagues state, "The OKT4 subset was reduced
in both seropositive (p<0.01) and seronegative (p<0.05) haemophiliacs
but there was no difference between seropositive and seronegative patients"
(Moffat et al., 1985);
2. Weiss and colleagues report, "We have thus been able to compare
lymphocyte subset data before and after infection with HTLV-III. It is
commonly assumed that the reduction in T-helper-cell numbers is a result
of the HTLV-III virus being tropic for T-helper-cells. Our finding in this
study that T-helper-cell numbers and the helper/suppressor ratio did not
change after infection supports our previous conclusion that the abnormal
T-lymphocyte subsets are a result of the intravenous infusion of factor
VIII concentrates per se, not HTLV-III infection" (Ludlam et al.,
3. Kessler and colleagues found, "Repeated exposure to many blood
products can be associated with development of T4/T8 abnormalities"
including "significantly reduced mean T4/T8 ratio compared with age
and sex-matched controls" (Kessler et al., 1983);
4. In 1984, Tsoukas et al observed that amongst a group of 33 asymptomatic
haemophiliacs receiving factor VIII concentrates, 66% were immunodeficient
"but only half were seropositive for HTLV-III", while "anti-HTLV-III
antibodies were also found in the asymptomatic subjects with normal immune
function". They summarised their findings as follows: "These
data suggest that another factor (or factors) instead of, or in addition
to, exposure to HTLV-III is required for the development of immune dysfunction
in haemophiliacs" (Tsoukas et al., 1984);
5. By 1986 researchers from the CDC concluded: "Haemophiliacs with
immune abnormalities may not necessarily be infected with HTLV-III/LAV,
since factor concentrate itself may be immunosuppressive even when produced
from a population of donors not at risk for AIDS" (Jason et al., 1986);
6. In 1985 Montagnier (Montagnier, 1985) wrote: "This [clinical
AID] syndrome occurs in a minority of infected persons, who generally have
in common a past of antigenic stimulation and of immune depression before
Thus, haemophiliacs, may develop immune deficiency before HIV infection,
that is, HIV is not necessary for the decrease in T4 cells observed in
haemophiliacs. Furthermore, to date, there is no evidence either from the
haemophilia studies or from studies in any other AIDS risk group, that
HIV can induce immune deficiency (Papadopulos-Eleopulos et al., 1994).
In other words, HIV is neither necessary nor sufficient for the appearance
of immune deficiency (decrease in T4 cells). However, there is ample evidence
which shows that:
1. Decrease in T4 cells in AIDS patients is not due to destruction of
T4 cells, but due a change to a T8 phenotype (Papadopulos-Eleopulos et
2. There is no correlation between T4 cell numbers and the clinical
syndrome in any AIDS risk group (Allain et al., 1987; Papadopulos-Eleopulos
et al., 1994).
That is, decrease in T4 cell numbers is neither necessary nor sufficient
for the appearance of the clinical syndrome.
Clinical and classification considerations
In 1981, high frequencies of Kaposi's sarcoma (KS), Pneumocystis carinii
pneumonia (PCP) and a small number of other diseases induced by other opportunistic
infectious agents, that is by agents which are ubiquitous but which usually
produce clinical disease only when the host defense mechanisms are depressed,
were observed in gay men in the United States.
Some of the gay men with KS or PCP were tested for immunological abnormalities
and a significant number were found to have low numbers of T4 cells, that
is, "cellular immune deficiency". Because of this, the term gay
related immune deficiency (GRID) was first used to describe the disease
in these patients but, not long after, this was changed to AIDS.
In 1982, the CDC defined AIDS as "illnesses in a person who 1)
has either biopsy-proven KS or biopsy- or culture-proven life-threatening
opportunistic infection, 2) is under 60, and 3) has no history of either
immunosuppressive underlying illness or immunosuppressive therapy"
(CDC, 1982). In addition to PCP, the "serious OI" were "meningitis,
or encephalitis due to one of more of the following: aspergillosis, candidiasis,
cryptococcosis, cytomegalovirus, nocardiosis, strongyloidosisis, toxoplasmosis,
zygomycosis, or atypical mycobacteriosis (species other than tuberculosis
or lepral); esophagitis due to candidiasis, cytomegalovirus or herpes simplex
virus; progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy; chronic enterocolitis
(more than 4 weeks) due to cryptosporidiosis; or unusually extensive mucocutaneous
herpes simplex of more than five weeks duration".
It must be pointed out that no one of the diseases which constituted
AIDS, the AIDS indicator diseases, was new. What was new was the high frequency
of these diseases in gay men (CDC, 1982; CDC, 1982). In the same year,
Robert Gallo, Myron Essex and James Curran put forward the hypothesis that
the cause of AIDS is a virus, the retrovirus, HTLV-I or a similar virus
(Gallo, 1987). According to this theory, the retrovirus induced immune
deficiency by causing the destruction of T4 cells, which in turn led to
the appearance of KS, PCP and other OI, that is, AIDS. In order to obtain
evidence in support of the above theory, that is, that AIDS was caused
by an infectious agent, the CDC formed a task-force, composed of 32 individuals,
mainly physicians, which "actively surveyed physicians in 18 major
metropolitan areas in the United States by letter and telephone to inquire
about Kaposi's sarcoma in persons under 60 years of age or opportunistic
infections in patients without a known predisposing factor since January
1979...a formal request was made to all state health departments to notify
the CDC of illnesses suspected of fitting the [above] case definition"
(CDC, 1982). Since HTLV-I was claimed to be transmitted by blood and blood
products, patients with haemophilia became a specific target. In July 1982
the CDC reported the first three cases of "Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia
among persons with Haemophilia A".
The first patient was a 62 year old individual with a one year history
of weight loss. The treatment and previous medical history was not given.
In December 1981, following the development of cough and fever he was found
to be "lymphopenic, and chest X-ray revealed interstitial infiltrates
compatible with viral pneumonia". He was treated with corticosteroids
resulting in an "overall clinical improvement". In January 1982
he presented with "severe respiratory distress" and PCP was proven
by open lung biopsy.
The second patient, 59 years old, with a history of weight loss, "apthous-
like ulcers and anterior cervical adenopathy beginning in October 1981"
was diagnosed with oropharyngeal candidiasis in February 1982. No previous
medical history or treatment was given. In May 1982 he was hospitalised
"with symptoms including nausea, vomiting, and recurrent fever. Pneumonia
was diagnosed, and P. carinii and cytomegalovirus (CMV) were repeatedly
identified from lung tissue or bronchial secretions". He also had
decreased T4 cell number, increased T8 cell numbers and a decreased T4/T8
The third patient, 27 years old, with a history of fever and urinary
frequency and urgency (treatment not given), was diagnosed with PCP in
October 1981. In February 1982 he was treated with ketoconazole. By April
he developed fever, splenomegaly, anaemia, lymphopenia and Mycobacterium
avium was grown from a number of tissues. He also had "a reduction
in absolute numbers of circulating T-cells". Subsequently, he was
found to have decreased T4 cells, increased T8 cells and a low T4/T8 ratio.
From these case histories it was concluded that "the clinical and
immunological features of these three patients are strikingly similar to
those recently observed among certain individuals from the following groups:
homosexual males, heterosexuals who abuse IV drugs, and Haitians who recently
entered the United States. Although the cause of the severe immune dysfunction
is unknown, the occurrence among the three hemophiliac cases suggests the
possible transmission of an agent through blood products" (CDC, 1982).
As a consequence, the CDC "notified directors of hemophilia centers
about these cases and, with the National Hemophilia Foundation, has initiated
collaborative surveillance". In the same year, Ragni and colleagues
found two haemophiliacs with decreased T4 and increased T8 cell numbers,
elevated IgG and IgM levels and lymphadenopathy and concluded that their
findings were "consistent with the diagnosis of AIDS" (Ragni
et al., 1983).
By October 1983, the CDC had 23 reports of AIDS cases in haemophiliacs,
18 in the USA and 5 in other countries, none with KS. Two of the above
cases had other risk factors, one was an IV user, the other gay (Jason
et al., 1984). By the end of 1984, the number of haemophilia AIDS cases
increased to 67 (Levine, 1985). By this time, Gallo's claim that AIDS in
all risk groups, gay men, IV users, blood transfusion recipients, and haemophiliacs
is caused by a new retrovirus, HTLV-III, later renamed HIV, became generally
accepted. By the end of June 1985, 80 haemophiliacs in the USA and five
in the United Kingdom were reported with AIDS, none with KS (Jones et al.,
1985). At about the same time it became known that by 1982 the vast majority
of haemophiliacs tested positive for HIV. "Yet the attack rate of
AIDS in hemophiliacs is not steadily climbing per reported period, [in
gay men it was increasing exponentially]. In addition, the last two reporting
periods [last quarter of 1984, and first quarter of 1985 when HIV testing
was introduced] contains a disproportionate number of patients with mild
and moderate disease" (Levine, 1985). Indeed, as has been seen, the
only clinical symptoms in the two patients reported by Ragini et al consistent
with the "diagnosis of AIDS", was lymphadenopathy.
Some published reports represent the gallant efforts made by some researchers
to prove that HIV infection in haemophiliacs, like HIV infection in gay
men, leads to neurological complications. Researchers from the Royal Postgraduate
Medical School in London reported two fatal haemophilia cases. The first
patient presented with "lethargy, poor concentration, and difficulty
with micturition. Examination disclosed diminished cognitive function and
brisk reflexes. Computed tomography (CT) of the brain showed dilated lateral
ventricles and widened sulci consistent with cerebral atrophy". Four
months later "he was incontinent and had difficulty walking and showed
signs of a pyramidal tract lesion". One month later he was "unable
to walk, had paranoid delusions. Relentless neurological deterioration
followed with painful spastic quadriparesis and convulsions". The
second patient presented with "weight loss, confusion, unilateral
cerebellar dysfunction, and diplopia which was diagnosed clinically as
an internuclear opthalmoplegia. A cerebral CT scan showed low attenuation
areas in the white matter of the frontal lobes and also in the right parietal
lobe". The above clinical signs were followed by coma. Although no
general or neuropathological examination was conducted in either of these
patients (permission for autopsy was refused), both these cases of "subacute
encephalopathy" were attributed to HIV because the patients were HIV
positive and had a low T4/T8 ratio (Rahemtulla et al., 1986). Similarly,
cerebral toxoplasmosis attributed to HIV, also without neuropathological
examination, has also been reported in haemophiliacs (Esiri et al., 1989).
The introduction of "mild and moderate disease" as indicating
AIDS, which commenced in the last quarter of 1984, co-incided with the
acceptance of HIV as the cause of AIDS in all risk groups and the redefinition
of AIDS by the CDC. Before this date practically all AIDS was KS and PCP.
According to the 1985 CDC definition, "a case of acquired immunodeficiency
syndrome (AIDS) is an illness characterized by:
I. one or more of the opportunistic diseases listed below (diagnosed
by methods considered reliable) that are at least moderately indicative
of underlying cellular immunodeficiency; and
II. absence of all known underlying causes of cellular immunodeficiency
(other than LAV/HTLV-III infection) and absence of all other causes of
reduced resistance reported to be associated with at least one of those
Despite having the above, patients are excluded as AIDS cases if they
have negative result(s) on testing for serum antibody to LAV/HTLV- III,
do not have a positive culture for LAV/HTLV-III, and have both a normal
or high number of T-helper (OKT4 or LEU3) lymphocytes and a normal or high
ratio of T-helper to T-suppressor (OKT8 or LEU2) lymphocytes. In the absence
of test results, patients satisfying all other criteria in this definition
are included as cases" (WHO, 1986).
A number of additional AIDS indicator diseases were added to the 1982
definition. These included: lymphoma limited to the brain, disseminated
histoplasmosis, isosporiasis and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Although HIV was
accepted as being the cause of AIDS in all AIDS risk groups, there were
significant differences between the groups. For example:
1. If HIV is the cause of AIDS in all the above risk groups, one would
expect the rate of conversion to clinical AIDS in all HIV positive individuals
to be the same. This is not the case. In a cohort of gay men in the USA,
the three year actuarial progression rate was 22% (Moss et al., 1988).
In a cohort of haemophiliacs, the annual incidence of AIDS ranged from
zero during the first year after seroconversion to 7% during the eight
year followup with an 8 year cummulative rate of 13.3% (Goedert et al.,
1989). In the United Kingdom three percent of haemophilia patients developed
AIDS by 3 years after seroconversion and 7% by 5 years post seroconversion
(Darby et al., 1989);
2. The clinical syndrome in haemophiliacs is different from that in
gay men. KS, one of the two most significant and frequent diseases in gay
men, for whose explanation the HIV hypothesis was put forward, is practically
non- existent in haemophiliacs. Such is also the case with oral hairy leukoplakia
(Greenspan & Greenspan, 1989).
To determine the forms of neuropathological and systemic pathology in
HIV positive haemophiliacs as compared to other HIV positive subjects,
Esiri et al examined the brains of 42 HIV seropositive individuals. Amongst
these were 11 haemophiliacs and 29 gay men. Four of the haemophiliacs were
classified as AIDS as were the majority of the gay men. "The prevalences
of opportunistic infections of the central nervous system were significantly
higher in the non-haemophiliacs (cerebral toxoplasmosis 23% (7), progressive
multifocal leucoencephalopathy 10% (3), and cerebral cytomegalovirus infection
19% (6) in the non-haemophiliacs v no cases in the haemophiliacs). The
prevalences of fresh and old intracranial haemorrhages and cirrhosis of
the liver were significantly higher in the haemophiliacs (fresh intracranial
haemorrhage 45% (5), old intracranial haemorrhage, 36% (4) and cirrhosis
of the liver 27% (3) in the haemophiliacs v no cases in the non- haemophiliacs)".
Discussing their results Esiri and colleagues wrote: "The rarity of
opportunistic infections in the central nervous system and elsewhere in
haemophiliacs is in keeping with many of them dying at an earlier (pre-AIDS)
stage in the development of HIV associated immunodeficiency than do most
subjects with HIV infection. [To the contrary, as has been stated above,
HIV seropositive haemophiliacs live longer than HIV seropositive gay men].
Consistent with this suggestion is Hilgartner's view that the pattern of
disease due to HIV infection in haemophiliacs differs from that in other
groups at high risk, and the observation of Darby et al that a substantial
burden of fatal disease occurs among haemophiliacs who are positive for
HIV and not formally diagnosed as having AIDS. If our cases of haemophilia
are representative of others much of this fatal disease would seem to be
accounted for by cerebrovascular and liver disease" (Hilgartner, 1987;
Esiri et al., 1989; Darby et al., 1990).
Once again, it is of pivotal significance to note that even in the early
years of the recognition of AIDS, it was agreed that in haemophiliacs,
there was "an immunodeficiency independent of HTLV-III infection"
(Hollan et al., 1985; Madhok et al., 1986). That is, haemophiliacs have
"known underlying causes of cellular immunodeficiency (other than
LAV/HTLV-III)", HIV). Thus, according to the 1985 AIDS definition,
haemophiliacs cannot be AIDS cases. Furthermore, although a prerequisite
of the diagnosis of AIDS in the 1985 definition was a positive test for
HIV, of all AIDS cases reported in the two year period 1985-1987 in New
York City and San Francisco, which constituted approximately one third
of all AIDS cases in the USA, "less than 7% have been reported with
HIV-antibody test results" (CDC, 1987).
Like the 1982 definition, the 1985 required the diseases which constituted
AIDS, the AIDS "indicator" diseases, to be definitely diagnosed.
However, the New York State Health Department found that although 13% of
the 1329 AIDS cases reported by the beginning of 1987 did have a positive
HIV antibody test, clinically these individuals' symptoms were suggestive
of AIDS but were not definitely diagnosed. In a similar study researchers
from the CDC and the Department of Health in New Jersey, Puerto Rico, Boston,
Washington, D.C. and Connecticut found that approximately 11% of cases
had a presumptive diagnosis because, according to one AIDS epidemiologist
"Many physicians are familiar enough with AIDS now that when they
see a young man with pneumonia, they can make a reasonable presumptive
diagnosis [of PCP] without resorting to biopsy," (Anonymous, 1987).
Thus a significant number of reported AIDS cases did not meet either the
1982 or the 1985 AIDS definition.
To accommodate the non-compliance with the 1985 AIDS definition, the
CDC claimed that their 1985 definition made it "unnecessarily difficult
to diagnose" AIDS, and thus it underestimated the number of AIDS cases.
In 1987, the CDC yet again redefined AIDS. The 1987 definition permitted
reporting of Acquired Immunodeficiency (AIDS) cases even if there was no
evidence of immune deficiency, or of a definite diagnosis of at least some
of the AIDS indicator diseases. More importantly, although the definition
considered HIV to be the sole cause of AIDS, individuals could be reported
as AIDS cases even when there was evidence against HIV infection. The major
features of the 1987 definition are:
I. Without laboratory evidence of HIV infection (patients not tested
for HIV or if tested the results were inconclusive), the 1985 indicator
diseases "if reliably diagnosed and other causes of immune deficiency
are ruled out", (that is, immunosuppressive therapy =F3 3 months before
the onset of the indicator disease, a small number of neoplastic diseases
diagnosed =F3 3 months after diagnosis of the indicator disease, an even
a smaller number of congenital immunodeficieny diseases), "are still
accepted as a diagnosis of AIDS".
II. "Regardless of the presence of other causes of immunodeficiency
in the presence of laboratory evidence of HIV infection":
A: Twelve new AIDS indicator diseases, when definitely diagnosed, indicate
AIDS. These include:
(i) extrapulmonary tuberculosis;
(ii) wasting syndrome, that is, involuntary weight loss of >10% of
body weight and either chronic diarrhoea (at least 2 loose stools per day
for =F2 30 days) or chronic weakness and documented fever (for =F2 30 days,
intermittent or constant);
(iii) HIV encephalopathy (shizoid behaviour, general fatigue, malaise,
diminished cognitive function (Gomperts, 1990);
(iv) bacterial infections, multiple or recurrent (any combination of
at least two within a 2-year period) of the following types affecting a
child less than 13 years of age: septicaemia, pneumonia, meningitis, bone
of joint infection, or abscess of an internal organ or body cavity (excluding
otitis media or superficial skin or mucosal abscesses) caused by Haemophilus,
Streptococcus, (including Pneumococcus), or other pyogenic bacteria.
B. The diseases listed below, even if presumptively diagnosed, indicate
"1. Candidiasis of the oesophagus.
2. Cytomegalovirus retinitis with loss of vision.
3. Kaposi's sarcoma.
4. Lymphoid interstitial pneumonia and/or pulmonary lymphoid hyperplasia
(LIP/LPH complex) affecting a child <13 years of age.
5. Mycobacterial disease (acid-fast bacilli with species not identified
by culture), disseminated (involving at least 1 site other than or in addition
to lungs, skin, or cervical or hilar lymph nodes).
6. Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia.
7. Toxoplasmosis of the brain affecting a patient >1 month of age."For
example: (i) presumptive diagnosis of candidiasis of the oesophagus is:
"a.Recent onset of retrosternal pain on swallowing; AND b. oral
candidiasis diagnosed by the gross appearance of white patches or plaques
on an erythematous base or by the microscopic appearance of fungal mycelial
filaments in an uncultured specimen scraped from the oral mucosa".
(ii) presumptive diagnosis of KS is:
"A characteristic gross appearance of an erythematous or violaceous
plaque-like lesion on skin or mucous membrane" (WHO, 1988).
III. If there is "laboratory evidence against HIV infection",
that is, the laboratory tests for HIV infection are negative, but the patient
has all above mentioned causes of immunodeficiency excluded and either:
(a) Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia diagnosed by a definite method OR;
(b) any of the 1985 AIDS indicator diseases diagnosed by a definite
method AND; a T4 cell count <400/mm3.
the patient has AIDS.
Thus the 1987 AIDS definition legitimised the reporting of a person
as suffering from Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, accepted to be caused
by HIV when;
1. Evidence of HIV infection was "not performed or gave inconclusive
results", or even when all the tests were negative that is, when there
was definite evidence that the patient was not infected with HIV;
2. The absence of any evidence of immune deficiency and even when the
cause of immune deficiency could have been other than HIV;
3. Both in the absence of HIV infection and immune deficiency.
In 1987, it was known that many, including KS and PCP, indicator diseases
of the 1985 definition were difficult to diagnose both clinically and histopathologically
(CDC, 1981; Follansbee et al., 1982; Hughes, 1987; Beral et al., 1990).
Yet, the definition permitted a person to be reported as suffering from
AIDS, even when the indicator diseases were presumptively diagnosed that
is, on the basis of non-specific findings. In fact, the 1987 definition
allowed so many degrees of freedom that nearly anybody, especially those
belonging to a "risk group", could be reported as an AIDS case.
This can best be illustrated by the following example:
In 1992, "The AIDS Reporting System was searched for all persons
who had been given a diagnosis of AIDS" by investigators from the
CDC (Smith et al., 1993). In seven reported haemophilia "AIDS"
(a) the HIV tests were all negative;
(b) not one of the patients had an AIDS indicator disease: 4 had common
diseases especially frequent in haemophiliacs, haematomas, hepatitis C
infection, thrombocytopenia and oral herpes, and two patients were asymptomatic;
(c ) all patients had a low (<300/mm3) T4 cell count.
Interestingly, in 1987, merely by redefining AIDS, there was a sharp
increase in AIDS cases in all AIDS risk groups including haemophiliacs.
In 1988, there were 552 cases in haemophiliacs of which 31 were known to
be gay and 12 drug users (Koerper, 1989). Not only did the 1987 AIDS definition
fail to solve the major problems arising from the 1982 definition, but
by then other problems associated with the HIV hypothesis of AIDS in haemophiliacs
1. It is accepted by all HIV researchers that heating factor VIII preparations
destroys HIV. Yet AIDS has been diagnosed in haemophiliacs who exclusively
received heat treated factor VIII (CDC, 1987);
2. Unlike other AIDS risk groups, in haemophilia, thrombocytopenia and
older age are risk factors for the development of AIDS. (Eyster et al.,
(a) it is well known that older age is associated with both immune deficiency
and increased incidence of OI and malignancies. Indeed, of the first 3
cases reported to the CDC with PCP in haemophiliacs in 1982, one of these
was not considered to be an AIDS case because he was 62 years of age;
(b) before the AIDS era the rate of thrombocytopenia in haemophiliacs
was significantly different (p<0.0003) than the normal population. Eyster
et al examined data collected by the Hemophilia Study Group from 1975 to
1979 on 1551 patients, "To determine whether there was clinical or
laboratory evidence to suggest an abnormality of immunoregulation in persons
with haemophilia before the recognition of AIDS". Twenty six of 518
(5%) patients whose platelet number were determined were found to be thrombocytopenic
(4 developed idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura [ITP]) and 9.3% (94/1013)
had lymphocytopenia (Eyster et al., 1985);
(c ) to elucidate "The attention given to infectious diseases in
haemophiliacs", which has "given rise to the concept of a novel
form of 'immunosuppression' in this population group", Aronson obtained
data from the National Center for Health Statistics USA regarding primary
and associated causes of death in haemophiliacs. For the years 1968-79,
949 deaths were recorded, "2 patients had candidiasis listed as the
primary cause of death. 66 deaths were related to pneumonia (10 primary,
56 associated) usually from unidentified organisms. Many of these pneumonia-associated
deaths occurred in the younger age groups, (25/66 [38%] were in patients
below the age of 45 while only 8% of pneumonia deaths in the normal male
population are below the age of 45)". Aronsen concluded "it seems
possible that many of the unspecified pneumonias in haemophiliacs in the
past would be classified today as AIDS" (Aronson, 1983). "Death
reports from the United States Vital Statistics System and from the hemophilia
center survey" for the above period 1968-1979 were also analysed by
workers from the CDC and the National Hemophilia Foundation. They found
that "an average of six deaths were reported to the National Center
for Health Statistics annually in 1968-1979 for conditions which could
possibly be related to AIDS" (Johnson et al., 1985). Of 89 haemophilia
deaths in the UK between 1976 and 1980, 11 (12%) died of unknown causes,
4 (4.5%) of unspecified pneumonias, 7 (8%) of neoplasms (Rizza & Spooner,
Thus, AIDS-like diseases in an appreciable number of haemophiliacs were
reported before the AIDS era, 1980. A high frequency of reporting, or even
true incidence of these diseases in this group since 1980 may be due to
a number of factors other than HIV:
1. Underreporting of specific causes of death in haemophilia patients
before 1980. In the above mentioned survey by workers from the CDC and
the National Hemophilia Foundation it was found that "The number of
deaths reported among factor VIII-deficient patients in the hemophilia
treatment center survey decreased from 26 deaths and 24 deaths in 1978
and 1979, respectively, to 18 and 19 deaths in 1980 and 1981, respectively.
The number of deaths then more than doubled, with 53 deaths reported for
1982. The two-to three-fold increase in deaths in 1982 include the first
five reported of immunodeficiency, an increase in deaths assigned to haemorrhage
unrelated to trauma, and an increase in deaths unrelated to AIDS or hemophilia.
The sharp increase in deaths across all categories is most likely due to
underreporting of deaths, as a result of hemophilia treatment centers inability
to identify deaths in previous years" (Johnson et al., 1985);
2. The increased reporting of PCP in haemophiliacs may be due to a true
increase of the incidence of PCP or due to:
(a) under diagnosis of PCP in this population before 1980 as a result
(i) lack of awareness, one searched for PCP only in immunosuppressed
patients, but before 1980 no one was aware that haemophiliacs were immunosuppressed.
(No immunological tests were carried out in this population);
(ii) the inadvisability, in haemophiliacs, of performing invasive procedures
which were required for definitive diagnosis;
(b) in the AIDS era, overdiagnosis of PCP after 1980, that is, pneumonias
of unknown aetiology are presumed to be PCP. Even when pneumonias are "definitely
diagnosed" as PCP, this may not be the case: "one might expect
to find P. carinii in the fluids from bronchoalveolar lavage of about 40
percent of patients with AIDS who present with symptomatic pneumonia caused
by other organisms" (Hughes, 1987). However, regarding the method
for definite diagnosis of PCP, the CDC definition states: "Pneumocystis
carinii pneumonia (on histology, or microscopy of a 'touch' preparation,
bronchial washings or sputum)" (WHO, 1986);
3. Over diagnosis of AIDS cases. For example, between July 1986 and
June 1987, the CDC had 3001 death certificates "that indicated HIV
infection/AIDS", but only 85% met the CDC AIDS definition (CDC, 1991);
4. Increased life span of patients with haemophilia. PCP "in infants
and children with congenital immunodeficiency did not evolve until after
the development of antibiotic therapy which allowed these children to live
long enough to develop a nonbacterial infection" (Burke & Good,
1973). That this may also be the case in haemophiliacs is suggested by
(a) in haemophiliacs the risk of AIDS is directly related to age. In
one USA study, eight-year cumulative incidences of AIDS in HIV positive
haemophiliacs have been found to be as follows: 1-11 years old, 3%; 12-17
years old, 9.2%; 18-25 years old, 14.9%; 26-34 years old, 19% and 35-70
years old, 29.7% (Goedert et al., 1989). The CDC also reported that the
AIDS cases are "older than the other hemophilia treatment center patients
(p<0.005), with a median age of 34 years" (Johnson et al., 1985);
(b) before the AIDS era, the life span of patients with haemophilia
was much lower than that of the rest of the population, in 1972 the median
age was 11.5 years. This compared with a median age of 26.8 years for the
USA male population in 1970. As a result of treatment with factor VIII
the median age increased to 20 years in 1982, and was 25 years in 1988
(Johnson et al., 1985; Koerper, 1989);
5. "Because of advances in medical practice", in the past
few decades, there has been an increase in the incidence of immunosuppression
and OIs. This may especially be expected in haemophiliacs since steroids
have been used for the treatment of joint problems (Muller, 1960), for
factor VIII inhibitors (Lian et al., 1989) and for ITP (Eyster et al.,
1985), all of which are present in haemophilia patients more often than
in the general population. Joint problems have also been treated with other
immunosuppressive agents such as radioactive gold or technetium (Fernandez-Palazzi
et al., 1984). In fact, before the AIDS era, "Pretreatment with antihistamines,
corticosteroids and adrenergic agents was recommended for all patients
with hemophilia being treated at home" with factor VIII (Helmer et
6. HIV positive individuals including haemophiliacs are treated with
AZT. The toxic effects of AZT have repeatedly been stressed by Lauritsen
(Lauritsen, 1990) and Duesberg (Duesberg, 1992). Here, only some of these
properties, especially those of significance to haemophiliacs, will be
(a) bone marrow failure including anaemia, neutropenia and thrombocytopenia
(Callaham, 1991). Many patients require blood transfusion within weeks
of commencing AZT. It is important to note that "the frequency of
lymphocytopenia and thrombocytopenia was increased in multitransfused factor
VIII-deficient hemophiliacs before the advent of AIDS" and that the
latter is a contributing factor in the development of AIDS in haemophilia
(Eyster et al., 1985). Furthermore, haemophiliacs with thrombocytopenia
"usually need treatment with drugs as zidovudine, corticosteroids
or immunoglobulins, which interfere with the immune system" (Mannucci
et al., 1992).
(b) peripheral neuropathy;
(c ) myopathy, "up to one-third of patients taking the drug for
more than a year, at a dose of around 1g daily, develop myopathy".
It is manifest clinically as symmetrical proximal weakness, usually preceded
by and associated with myalgia, together with muscle wasting. This leads
to difficulty in walking and patients may become wheel-chair or bed bound.
(Lane et al., 1993). The toxic effects on muscle eventually lead to heart
and other cardio-vascular and pulmonary problems. Since the major long
term disabilities in haemophiliacs, irrespective of AIDS, are musculoskeletal
disease (Levine, 1985), the above toxic effects of AZT are of particular
interest in this group of individuals.
(d) In the 1960s, before the AIDS era, AZT was developed as an agent
to treat neoplasms. All drugs presently used to treat cancer are known
to be immunosuppressive and to lead to the appearance of OI. They are also
known to be carcinogenic (Papadopulos-Eleopulos, 1982). Before the AIDS
era animal evidence showed that AZT is no exception (Callaham, 1991) and
the widespread use of AZT in HIV positive individuals in the AIDS era has
shown that this is also the case in humans. Thus lymphomas develop in 9%
"of AZT-treated AIDS patients, with Kaposi's sarcoma, pneumonia and
wasting disease" within one year of commencing therapy and it has
been calculated that the "annual lymphoma risk of AZT recipients is
about 30 times higher than that of untreated HIV-positive counterparts"
(e) AZT induces liver damage and may cause hepatic failure and death
(Touchette, 1993). This is of particular interest in haemophiliacs who,
regardless of their HIV status, can suffer from chronic liver disease,
which may also "contribute to AIDS-related diseases", and since
the introduction of factor VIII for the treatment of bleeding, has become
the leading cause of death in haemophiliacs (Eyster et al., 1985; Eyster
et al., 1987).
7. Factor VIII. As Levine has pointed out: "To understand the occurrence
of AIDS in haemophilia, it is important to recognize that each vial of
factor VIII concentrate will contain, depending on manufacturer and lot
number, a distillate of clotting factors, alloantigenic proteins, and infectious
agents obtained from between 2500 and 25,000 blood or plasma donors. Until
recently, of all the protein injected in "factor VIII preparations",
factor VIII accounted for only about 0.03-0.05% of the total. The rest
included: albumin, fibrin(ogen), immunoglobulins and immune complexes (Eyster
& Nau, 1978; Mannucci et al., 1992). Even the recent "high-purity"
factor VIII contains "potentially harming proteins" such as isoagglutinins,
fibrin(ogen), split products, immunoglobulins and, when monoclonal antibodies
are used for factor VIII preparation, murine proteins in addition to albumin
Factor VIII was first introduced in the late 1960s. "In 1975, the
average patient received an estimated 40 000 units of factor VIII per year
(a unit being the equivalent of 1mL of fresh frozen plasma as to factor
VIII content). By 1981, the average patient was consuming 60 000 to 80
000 units per year" (Levine, 1985). The introduction of factor VIII
led to a dramatic decrease in haemophilia deaths from bleeding but it also
had some harmful effects including myocardial ischaemia, visual disturbances,
headache, dyspnoea, bronchospasm, hypotension and anemia (Eyster &
Nau, 1978; Kopitsky & Geltman, 1986; Beeser, 1991). As previously stated,
factor VIII preparations contain immunoglobulin which may produce systemic
reactions such as pruritus, chills, fever, tremor, flushing, malaise, nausea,
vomiting, back pain and joint pain (van Aken, 1991). Before the AIDS era,
no immunological studies were carried out in haemophiliacs but subsequently,
as has been mentioned, in 1985, Eyster et al showed that the frequency
of lymphocytopenia and thrombocytopenia was increased in haemophiliacs
prior to the AIDS era (Eyster et al., 1985). More recently performed immunological
studies including determination of T4 cell numbers, led to the generally
accepted view that factor VIII itself is immunosuppressive. Recently, researchers
from the UK showed that progression to AIDS in HIV seropositive haemophiliacs
is determined by abnormalities induced by factors other than HIV all of
which existed before seroconversion (Simmonds et al., 1991). In other words,
HIV is not sufficient for the development of AIDS in patients with haemophilia.
In conclusion, HIV is not necessary for the development of AIDS in patients
with haemophilia. Nonetheless, since:
1. According to the new 1993 CDC AIDS definition, any individual who
is HIV seropositive and who has one ("the lowest accurate, but not
necessarily the most recent") T4 cell count less than 200 cells/uL,
irrespective of the clinical situation even if asymptomatic, has AIDS (CDC,
2. (a) most haemophiliacs test positive for HIV (but AIDS experts accept
that in haemophiliacs a positive antibody test does not prove HIV infection);
(b) most haemophiliacs have a low numbers of T4 cells (but AIDS experts
accept that in haemophiliacs the immune deficiency may be caused by factors
other than HIV);
in the future, by definition, virtually all haemophiliacs will die from
no other disease but AIDS caused by HIV.
Note added in proof
After this paper was accepted for publication the CDC
forwarded the authors a copy of its fact sheet (CDC 1994) on HIV transmission.
Given the perilous future for haemophilia patients enshrined in the CDC's
1993 AIDS definition and cognisant of the fact that factor VIII has long
been supplied as a freeze-dried powder which may spend many weeks or months
waiting use, it is incomprehensible that the CDC would also, in 1994, communicate
the following experimental data and conclusion: "In order to obtain
data on the survival of HIV, laboratory studies have required the use of
artificially high concentrations of laboratory grown virus...the amount
of virus studied is not found in human specimens or anyplace else in nature,...it
does not spread or maintain infectiousness outside its host. Although these
unnatural concentrations of HIV can be kept alive under precisely controlled
and limited laboratory conditions, CDC studies have shown that drying of
even these high concentrations of HIV reduces the number of infectious
viruses by 90 to 99 percent within several hours. Since the HIV concentrations
used in laboratory studies are much higher than those actually found in
blood or other body specimens, drying of HIV-infected human blood or other
body fluids reduces the theoretical risk of environmental transmission
to that which has been observed-essentially zero". It is thus inexplicable,
given their own data, that the CDC continues to regard patients with haemophilia
at risk for HIV infection via contaminated factor VIII concentrates and
enigmatic that another explanation for "HIV" and AIDS in haemophiliacs
has not been sought. *
We would like to thank all our colleagues and especially Richard Fox, Wendy Erber, Michael Ristow, Stephan Lanka, Alfred
Hässig, Neville Hodgkinson, Christine Johnson, Fabio Franchi, Cecily Metcalf, Philip Adams, Barry Page, Livio Mina, Gary
James, Iris Peter, the staff of the Royal Perth Hospital Library and the clerical staff of the Department of Medical Physics.
We also thank Harvey Bialy, Udo Schuklenk, Charles Thomas, Gordon Stewart, James Whitehead and Katrina Prastidis for
continual encouragement, and Peter Duesberg for inviting us to submit this paper to Genetica. We especially thank Michael
Verney-Elliot, Joan Shenton and Bruce Hedland- Thomas for their help and motivating encouragement.
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