One of my idols in radiology was Benjamin Felson, M.D., the guru of plain chest xray interpretation. Back in 1977, while in residency training in Chicago, I attended a radiology meeting where Felson showed slides of interesting cases, and asked the audience for the diagnosis. Stumping the audience on a difficult case, he jokingly disclosed that the findings we thought were due to eosinophilic pneumonia were in reality due to a bottle of scotch in his luggage which had broken during travel, and the radiographic findings were tongue marks on the slide as he tried to salvage a few drops of the rare elixir. This was an important lesson, because we all realized that the information on the xray could be misleading, and occasionally at odds with common sense.
Later that same year, I witnessed another example when a trickster neuro-radiologist put a watermelon in the EMI CAT scanner. The chief was proud that we had one of the first EMI scanners ever built, but the early images were crude 80 x 80 pixels, and the lateral ventricles were barely visible. Not content with the act, he placed the resulting “watermelon” CAT scan images into a fake chart in the “to be read” bin. Next morning, bright and early during the daily CAT scan reading session, the chief jumped out of his chair exclaiming the “patient” had a massive subdural hematoma and needed an immediate life saving craniotomy. It was an effort to contain our laughter. We did, however, knowing our fate in the department depended on it.
The same lesson applies to interpretation of HIV/AIDS theories based on incomplete data sets. For example, take Beatrice Hahn’s idea-du-jour that AIDS originated in 1931 from cross species transmission to humans from chimpanzees in Cameroon. Hahn is credited with braving the African bush to perform HIV testing on chimp droppings. She found that 30 percent test positive for HIV using western blot and PCR, thus showing (yet again) that chimps (and other primates) have served as natural reservoirs for retroviral sequences forever. Yet according to the lead author, it somehow helps to prove the virus jumped species just a few years ago.
Among the obvious problems with the chimp to human transmission "theory" (sic) is that there has never been a documented (or even anecdotal) case of AIDS from chimpanzees, gorillas or any other primates "known to have HIV". We can get rabies from animals, but no reports of AIDS from chimps. Even Jean Marx cannot credit this "new" discovery. Writing in Science, she remarks that: “AIDS does not qualify as a zoonosis and this explanation cannot in itself account for the origin of the AIDS epidemic.” In addition, there are no reports of AIDS among the African Bushmen who have hunted, butchered and eaten chimps for decades. "We've been eating chimps and monkeys for years and years, and never had anyone get sick from AIDS," says Lazare Ampomadjimi. "So it can't be true." Native Africans have hunted and been exposed to primates in the wild for thousands of years, and any AIDS cases should have been reported in the 18th century at the time of the slave trade.
David P. Mindell theorized : “Inferred newness of HIV is contradicted by discovery of noncytopathic HIV and relatively low virulence of HIV in rural human populations”, and suggested that chimps may have actually acquired HIV from humans in the ancient past. Of course, this blasphemy was promptly refuted.
Hahn’s 1931 date for the origin of human HIV is based on computer modeling with questionable assumptions. Could there be a hidden agenda in the selection of 1931, which is fairly recent, yet predates the emergence of modern virology? One observation which raises questions about the 1931 date is the stable incidence of 1 million HIV positives each year in America since 1983.
Although shedding no light on the imagined African origins of the invented epidemic, the chimp data reinforce what we know from other sources about distribution and frequency of retroviral sequences in the primate genome.
Additionally, just as hypothesized re chimps by Hahn, a "non-pathogenic HIV" in humans is well known. Those “infected” have been described as long term non-progressors viremic controllers, and elite controllers, and are currently the subject of a study at Mass. General Hospital. The exact number of these HIV positives who never get sick and don’t take antiviral drugs is unknown.
Rachel Rosenberg, coordinator for the Mass General study, told me that although they guess that 1 in 300 HIV positives may be in this special category, they don’t focus on analyzing the frequency of the control (personal communication). This cavalier attitude is surprising, because the incidence of these "elite controllers" in the general population would seem to be important data, especially in light of the CDC's plans to test everyone.
Fried watermelon anyone?
Jeffrey Dach M.D. is board certified in interventional radiology and a member of the Board of the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine. He retired from radiology two years ago, and is currently in private practice focusing on bio-identical hormone treatment.