Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid response to:

Education And Debate

Reframing HIV and AIDS

BMJ 2003; 327 doi: (Published 06 November 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;327:1101

Rapid Response:

Re: An apparently missing control experiment on HIV/AIDS

Re: An apparently missing control experiment on HIV / AIDS

In his rapid response, “An apparently missing control experiment on
HIV / AIDS”, 14 March 2004, with respect to Montagnier’s 1983 paper,
Etienne de Harven wrote: “…the paper was illustrated with an excellent
electron microcopy (EM) picture showing unquestionably typical retrovirus
particles budding from the surface of an infected lymphocyte.”

The presence of buds on cell surfaces does not prove that the buds
represent retrovirus particles. These buds may be nothing else but
cellular protrusions resulting from localised contraction of the actin-
myosin system induced by the oxidizing agents to which the cell cultures
are subjected. (1) That is, although buds are characteristic of
retroviral particles, they are not specific.

According to Montagnier et al “That this new isolate was a retrovirus
was further indicated by its density in a sucrose gradient, which was
1.16…” (2) However, we know now in the material which banded at
1.16gm/ml, the “purified virus”, Montagnier and his colleagues could not
find any particles with the “morphology typical of retroviruses”. (3)
This means that even if the cell-free particles originated from buds on
the cell surface neither the buds nor the cell free particles could have
had anything to do with either an endogenous or exogenous retrovirus.

Etienne wrote: “It appears that a most crucial, control experiment
has been omitted, in 1983, when the team at the Pasteur Institute in Paris
published their historical paper on the alleged “isolation” of HIV (LAV) …
Can any BMJ reader help to identify a laboratory where one could perform
the following, short, non-expensive, control experiment that is obviously

The experiment will be as simple as this: 1) Isolate lymphocytes from
human umbilical cord blood, 2) Place these lymphocytes in cell cultures,
exposing the cells to exactly the same growth factors (PHA and TCGF) as
those used in the 1983 experiments, in absence of any other cellular
elements; 3) Prepare these lymphocytes sequentially, for transmission
electron microcopy; 4) Search, by EM, for budding retroviral particles on
the surface of these cultured lymphocytes. I am personally convinced that
if positive results are obtained (i.e. budding retrovirus on stimulated
cord blood lymphocytes in the total absence of any AIDS patient material),
a profound reappraisal of the 1983 Pasteur paper will appear imperatively
necessary. I would be happy to contribute as an advisor and as an electron
microscopist, anytime, anywhere.”

Such an experiment has already been carried out. Budding retrovirus
-like particles have been reported in “non-HIV infected” cord blood
lymphocytes as well as many other cells used for “HIV isolation”.(4)


1. Papadopulos-Eleopulos E, Turner VF, Papadimitriou JM, Causer D. (1996).
The Isolation of HIV: Has it really been achieved? Continuum 4:1s-24s.

2. Barre-Sinoussi F, Chermann JC, Rey F, Nugeyre MT, Chamaret S, Gruest J,
Dauguet C, Axler-Blin C, Vezinet-Brun F, Rouzioun C, Rozenbaum W,
Montagnier L (1983) Isolation of a T-Lymphotrophic Retrovirus from a
patient at Risk for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). Science

3. Tahi D. (1998). Did Luc Montagnier discover HIV? Text of video
interview with Professor Luc Montagnier at the Pasteur Institute July 18th
1997. Continuum 5:30-34.

4. Dourmashkin, R.R., O'Toole, C.M., Bucher, D. and Oxford, J.S. 1991.The
presence of budding virus-like particles in human lymphoid cells used for
HIV cultivation. p.122. In:Vol. I, Abstracts VII International Conference
on AIDS,Florence.

Competing interests:
None declared

Competing interests: No competing interests

23 March 2004
Eleni Papadopoulos-Eleopulos
Valendar F Turner, John Papadimitriou, Barry Page, David Causer, Helman Alfonso, Sam Mhlongo, Todd Miller, Christian Fiala
Royal Perth Hospital, Western Australia