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The best laid plans...

By sbutler in News
Thu Jan 10, 2002 at 01:58:57 AM EST
Tags: Science (all tags)

AIDS is a major problem for the human race. There are an estimated 40 million people living with the disease, and 5 million people contracted it in the last year. In Sub-Saharan Africa approximately 30% of the population has AIDS (UNAIDS AIDS Epidemic Update)

Because it is such a large problem, the disease has been closely studied. Scientists know what virus causes the disease, and how the treatments work. Despite what is known, there is still controversy over how the disease came to infect humans. Theories range from the plausible (monkey bite), to the outrageous (aliens). Recently on the Discover web site, a variation on an old theory is put forward.

Author Edward Hooper is probably most famous for his book titled The River. In it he attempts to trace the history of HIV and how humans contracted it. His theory is that infected lots of an experimental polio vaccine were to blame for the cross over of SIV (the simian version of HIV). Human intervention played the key role in starting the disease. However, most of the lots have been tested for SIV and none have been found that contain the virus (BBC Polio link)

Now a virologist, Preston Marx, has a new theory. Once again, human intervention plays the key role. He wanted to test the idea that monkey bites were responsible for the introduction of humans to HIV. But the data that he collected did not seem to support this.

So instead he started to think much like Hooper did. He investigated the effect humans might have had, and in particular the vaccination campaigns. However, this is where Marx and Hooper go their separate ways. Marx thinks that unclean needles in other vaccination campaigns are to blame (the polio vaccine was attenuated, so it was fed to people, not injected).

The theory starts out with a hunter becoming infected with SIV (through either bites, or eating uncooked meat). Usually the immune system would be able to beat the infection, but if a slightly mutated virus were to jump to another host then it would have more time to mutate into something deadly to humans. The unsterilized needles would allow the virus to transfer among a large population in a short time period, also allowing it more time to mutate.

That man might have caused HIV is a sobering thought. The good intentions of a few could have inadvertently caused one of the greatest problems to plague humans in the 20th century. It is a reminder that any action can lead to devastating consequences.


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Related Links
o AIDS Epidemic Update
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o Discover
o The River
o Polio link
o new theory
o Also by sbutler

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The best laid plans... | 22 comments (18 topical, 4 editorial, 0 hidden)
informative article; hyperbolic ending (+1) (4.00 / 1) (#2)
by sayke on Wed Jan 09, 2002 at 08:21:49 PM EST

of course any action can lead to devastating consequences - butterfly wings and hurricanes, remember? there's nothing we can do about that but take the likely long-term consequences of our actions into account as best we can, which, well, we should already be doing ;)

but besides that, i've no quibbles with the article.

sayke, v2.3.1 /* i am the middle finger of the invisible hand */

Typical scientific proposal ending (3.00 / 1) (#3)
by localroger on Wed Jan 09, 2002 at 08:34:37 PM EST

The ending is actually a good one if you are writing an abstract or grant proposal. Years ago I read a hilarious article about how all research will ultimately lead to the cure for cancer if you believe grant proposals.

One of the more interesting submissions lately, and competently written up; +1 section from me.

I can haz blog!
[ Parent ]

Re: Typical scientific proposal ending (3.00 / 1) (#10)
by sbutler on Thu Jan 10, 2002 at 12:18:10 AM EST

(looking sheepish)... okay, point granted. I was being a little too over dramatic :)

[ Parent ]
if only i had more time.. (4.50 / 6) (#7)
by krkrbt on Wed Jan 09, 2002 at 11:25:28 PM EST

I'm headed back to school tomorrow & I still need to pack up, otherwise I'd write more. There's serious problems with the whole AIDS and Africa deal - check out http://www.aliveandwell.org/index.php?page= africa. In a nutshell: Most of the so-called "AIDS" cases in Africa would probably disappear if everyone there had access to clean water, sanitary living conditions, healthy food, and political stability (indirectly).

Reply, say why this view is horribly foolish rather than being the coward and moderating me down.

African AIDS (4.50 / 2) (#11)
by locke baron on Thu Jan 10, 2002 at 01:23:54 AM EST

I'd venture there really is a fairly high incedence of HIV in Africa, but there's also considerable merit to the notion that the oft-quoted figures should be viewed with a certain skepticism.

Micro$oft uses Quake clannies to wage war on Iraq! - explodingheadboy
[ Parent ]
Good link (4.00 / 2) (#14)
by JonesBoy on Thu Jan 10, 2002 at 11:15:29 AM EST

I was going to find a similar link and post it. There is an increasing amount of complaints about the diagnosis of AIDS in Africa, and a lack of explanation of the 2 different strains. There is a lot of conflicts of interest here. The medical companies send out people to Africa, who then diagnose widespread AIDS, and the company gets WHO funding for AIDS research. And nobody seems to want to double check these figures.

It is also funny to look at the three symptoms used in diagnosing AIDS. Fever, weight loss, and diarreah. Shoot. Name any disease that isn't AIDS by that definition. And the blood test is based on white blood cell counts. If you are sick or starving, of course you will have a low WBC count!

There are several religous communities in Africa that take care of AIDS diagnosed people, and make their last days more comfortable. They give them food, water, and sanitary conditions. They have a problem, though. People recover completely and leave on a routine basis.

I am not saying there is no AIDS epidemic in Africa, or anywhere else. I do believe the cash cow is being milked for all its worth, at the expense of a continent that most of the world doesn't seem to give a danm about (unless they have sweatshops and diamond mines).

Speeding never killed anyone. Stopping did.
[ Parent ]
"Caused by Man?" (4.00 / 1) (#8)
by SPrintF on Wed Jan 09, 2002 at 11:29:57 PM EST

If I understood the theory, the original mutation of SIV, which I infer is an early form of HIV, were entirely the result of natural processes.

The role of a vacination program in the spread of the disease is unclear. Assuming that this 1st generation AIDS virus can be transmitted in the same manner as the current form of the disease, why couldn't all of the known methods of transmission (dirty needles, contact with blood, sexual activity) be suspect?

And, if that is the case, how could you say that HIV was "caused by Man?"

Re: "Caused by Man?" (4.33 / 3) (#9)
by sbutler on Thu Jan 10, 2002 at 12:15:52 AM EST

(just to let you know, I am not an expert on this, but I have read a fair amount)

SIV is the monkey version of HIV, and it came first. They have sequenced SIV and determined that it is an ancestor of HIV (there are different versions of SIV just as there are of HIV... SIVgm, SIVsm). It is late so I am not going to go link hunting, but if you want I can try to dig up some references for you.

The major point is that SIV can't survive in humans. Our immune systems are able to destroy the virus, but before SIV is gone it will probably mutate slightly (this seems to be something HIV is also very good at). The mutations required to make SIV into HIV can't happen before the body rids itself of the infection, but if the mutated form is spread to another host and allowed to mutate further there, it might gain enough time to become something deadly to man.

When they would do these vaccination campaigns (at least for polio, I would imagine it was similar for epidemics) they would do entire villages in one day. I don't care how promiscuous you are, that is a lot of people :) Same thing with hospitals, they don't have the funding to buy new needles. So a batch of 10 or 15 might be used for weeks. People could come from areas all around, and so this could be how HIV managed to spread from just a small pocket to entire areas (Marx mentions how he didn't find small areas, just large general ones). The key here is that the vaccinations might have allowed mutated SIV to spread quickly to a large population before the immune systems were able to destroy it.

I suppose saying that man caused AIDS does sound misleading. If this theory, or ones like it, are right, then although we didn't make the virus, we played the key role in helping it mutate. That is what I wanted to get across in the summary... I don't think that AIDS was caused by the CIA or Castro.

Sorry about any spelling... I just want to go to bed. Maybe this clears something up? Let me know if you would like references... might give me something to do tomorrow during work :)

[ Parent ]
I don't buy it. (none / 0) (#13)
by BlaisePascal on Thu Jan 10, 2002 at 09:53:16 AM EST

If I understand the suggestion, it's something like this:

It takes time for SIV to mutate into HIV, but the human body can fight off an SIV infection in less time. For sake of example, let's say it takes a month to go from SIV to HIV, and three weeks for the body to kill off SIV.

So the scenario is that Bob, a member of a village gets bitten by a monkey and gets infected with SIV. Two weeks later, a vaccination team comes to town and vaccinates 1000 people in the village and surrounding area, infecting everyone who shared a needle with Bob with a mutated form of SIV (SIV'). Two weeks after the vaccination team leaves, SIV' finishes its mutation into HIV, and a bunch of people all over the area now have HIV.

The problem is that this should lead to hundreds of variants of HIV, since each evolution from SIV' to HIV would be independent and likely different. It would also mean that different areas which have different "Bob"s would have a -different- set of hundreds of variants, since each SIV' would have evolved differently. We don't see hundreds of strains of HIV, we see lots of variants of a few strains.

More likely, if vaccination teams are a vector, is that Bob had a compromised immune system already, and the SIV was able to mutate fully into HIV before being wiped out, and THEN the vaccination team came in and spread it.

[ Parent ]

A solution to your SIV human problem (none / 0) (#15)
by theantix on Thu Jan 10, 2002 at 02:59:02 PM EST

It takes time for SIV to mutate into HIV, but the human body can fight off an SIV infection in less time. For sake of example, let's say it takes a month to go from SIV to HIV, and three weeks for the body to kill off SIV.
Nope. Most likely there would have been a mutated SIV that had the capacity to "jump" and survive in humans. The mutation would not have occured in the human, but at a much earlier stage. So the mutated SIV would only have to make one hop from simians to humans -- thus leading to only the few varients we have today.

You sir, are worse than Hitler!
[ Parent ]
no, wait.. (none / 0) (#22)
by rhyax on Wed Jan 16, 2002 at 05:09:04 PM EST

you're thinking of this injection protocol as a recipe for making hiv, not as a possible way it could have occured. in one person, say, using your example your immune system can wipe out siv in 3 weeks 100% of the time. if at week 2 the partially mutated strain is injected into a new person it has 3 more weeks to mutate.

the important part to realize is that this procedure doesn't make it mutate, it may not have mutated at all and the siv injected into patient 2 is just normal siv that will be destroyed in 3 weeks, or it may have mutated in a detrimental way to the virus... you won't have 1 new strain for every "patient 2" but given enough "patient 2"s you might get one strain that can survive the 3 week immune-response time-limit

[ Parent ]

Another theory (4.25 / 4) (#12)
by FredBloggs on Thu Jan 10, 2002 at 05:30:25 AM EST

"Molecular biology is a field that is advancing very rapidly, and eminent biologists believe that within a period of 5 to 10 years it would be possible to produce a synthetic biological agent, an agent that does not naturally exist and for which no natural immunity could have been acquired...a new infective microorganism which could differ in certain important aspects from any known disease-causing organisms. Most important of these is that it might be refractory [resistant] to the immunological and therapeutic processes upon which we depend to maintain our relative freedom from infectious disease.

A research program to explore the feasibility of this could be completed in approximately 5 years at a total cost of $10 million"

-Dr. D. M. MacArthur, June 9, 1969


or get the book `A higher form of killing` by Robert Harris and Jeremy Paxman.

Major Problem? (2.25 / 4) (#16)
by PresJPolk on Thu Jan 10, 2002 at 03:46:05 PM EST

I wouldn't call a disease that's easily avoided a "major problem." As AIDS activists so often tell us, you can't get AIDS by being in the same room with someone, talking with someone, or even by shaking hands. The only ways of transmitting the disease are easily avoidable exchanges of bodily fluids.

Let's divert money from AIDS toward things that affect everyone, and aren't known to be avoidable yet. Let's feed the starving in Africa before we treat the sexually liberated of Africa.

In case you didn't notice. (5.00 / 2) (#21)
by ambrosen on Fri Jan 11, 2002 at 08:32:29 AM EST

Every single human being in the whole world is born with this huge urge to have sex. It's very hard to avoid doing so when you have the opportunity. Even in places with high levels of literacy and education, there is a large section of the population who is unconvinced of the need for safe sex because it has not been brought home to them what the risks are. These are people who know what you do with a condom.

On the other hand, there are many people in Africa who have never even been told that AIDS is contracted through unprotected sex, who have never seen a condom or even those who have never learnt about microscopic infectious agents such as viruses and bacteria, and have no way of understanding infection. Trying to teach any of these people that during sex, the man has to place a condom on his penis to avoid transmitting HIV is hugely expensive. Until that's done, I'd say that those people who're getting infected and didn't know can't be said to have been doing something avoidable.

And anyway, feeding the starving does tie in very strongly with avoiding the spread of AIDS, because if you're 10 years old and your parents have just died of an AIDS related illness, then you're pretty likely to be going hungry soon. Giving aid to African education systems so there's a working school system will allow both improvements in people's ability to earn money and buy food, and also allow them to avoid getting infected with HIV. It's not about feeding the starving, it's about helping people to live a real life where they can feed themselves and protect themselves from illness.

Procrastination does not make you cool. Being cool makes you procrastinate. DesiredUsername.
[ Parent ]

Question (4.00 / 1) (#17)
by refulgence on Thu Jan 10, 2002 at 06:54:11 PM EST

Wait a minute, I'm getting confused. How hard is it, really, for AIDS to be transmitted heterosexually (through vaginal sex)?

"Disgust is the appropriate response to most situations."  JennyHolzer
Quite hard (none / 0) (#18)
by linca on Thu Jan 10, 2002 at 09:05:29 PM EST

I believe the rate is 1 transmission for 500 intercourses, if both the penis and the vagin are healthy.

[ Parent ]
Any studies to back this number? (5.00 / 1) (#19)
by skim123 on Thu Jan 10, 2002 at 11:22:08 PM EST

I believe the rate is 1 transmission for 500 intercourses, if both the penis and the vagin are healthy

I hope that it is that low, but do you have any studies to back that number? Still, kids, remember to practice safe sex!

This service message brought to you by me.

Money is in some respects like fire; it is a very excellent servant but a terrible master.
PT Barnum

[ Parent ]
sexual differences (none / 0) (#20)
by Ceebs on Fri Jan 11, 2002 at 06:28:09 AM EST

I seem to remember that women are between ten and twenty times as likely as men to catch the virus through hetrosexual intercourse

[ Parent ]
The best laid plans... | 22 comments (18 topical, 4 editorial, 0 hidden)
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