June 21st, 2012
Science is full of stories where new discoveries and new emerging concepts are at first badly received by a community of conservative scientists ; the only fault to the first proponents is to have been too far in advance. I believe this is happening again to me and it is very sad that it involves Nobel Prizes laureates attacking a fellow Nobel Prize laureate.
It reminds me of the year 1983 and first quarter of 1984, a time where we were only ten in the world to believe we had isolated the main cause of AIDS and we were strongly criticized by Robert Gallo and his supporters, including some distinguished colleagues of the Pasteur Institute. Of course the confirmation by Gallo and Levy came afterwards, but this scientific dispute led to a one year delay for the detection of the lethal virus in blood used for transfusions, a year delay which tragically allowed the deterioration and deaths of thousands of HIV sufferers.
Now we are facing a still greater medical issue.
AIDS and Chronic Diseases
AIDS is still a major problem worldwide and demands top quality research, not only in developed countries, but in Africa where it is a continent-wide scourge.
This is why, in 1993, I created and cofounded with Federico Mayor - then Director General of UNESCO - the World Foundation for AIDS Research and Prevention. One of its main objectives was to set up Research Centers in developing countries, especially in Africa where AIDS was fast spreading.
A first Center (CIRBA) was created in 1996 in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, with the help of the Ivorian Government. Today, 3.000 ambulatory patients per year are treated with ARVS in the Center and some of them are enrolled in clinical trials, upon agreement of the National Ethical Committee and under my supervision. The Center also participates actively in research launched by other Institutions.
A second Center (CIRCB) was created in 2006 in Yaoundé, under the aegis of the First Lady of Cameroon, Mrs. Chantal Biya, with financial participation of the Italian Government. Its main objective was to better control the transmission of HIV from mother to child, a problem which has disappeared in developed countries because of the prenatal ARV treatment of the mother, but is still recurrent in African countries because many pregnant mothers are not tested and the early detection of the child infection is often not possible.
I was the Chairman of the Scientific Council and Vice-Chairman of the Managing Committee of the Center. Pr. Vittorio Colizzi, from the Tor Vergata University in Rome, was appointed as the First Scientific Director and then as interim Scientific Director. Pr. Colizzi had a project of HIV vaccine : since some HIV infections occur in infants after birth by breast feeding, he proposed to prevent this infection by vaccination of newborns by HIV peptides HLA compatible, boosted by BCG, as strong adjuvant of cellular immunity.
Vaccination by B.C.G. against Tuberculosis has been given up in industrialized countries for its lack of efficacy but is still operative in some African Countries. BCG is no longer made by the Pasteur Institute, but is still produced in Bulgaria.
At the beginning, the research part of the project (study of the HLA/peptide matching in African individuals) was included in a more general project dealing with mother protection of HIV infection (Families First Africa) and supported by funds distributed by UNESCO and my Foundation.
However UNESCO did not accept to be involved in the part of the project related to clinical trials as being more of the domain of WHO. Meanwhile, the advent of ARVs in Africa, with the help of the Global Fund and other International Institutions, permitted the decrease of the transmission of HIV to newborns almost to zero in some parts of Cameroon, making the Colizzi project less necessary.
In 2010, the board of our Foundation decided to drop any further participation in this project, in view of its costs and of its likely inability to be accepted by any ethical Committee and WHO. BCG diffusion (generalized BCGite) could not be excluded in babies with an immature immune system and insufficiently protected by antibodies of the mother (we had evidence in France of a death by BCGite of an infant born to a seropositive mother, the latter having no sign of advanced immune depression).
Pr. Colizzi has decided to continue his project, despite its uncertain future.
Professor Colizzi’s contract as Interim Scientific Director ended in 2011 (he was given an extension of 4 months). During the last year of his interim Directorship, Pr. Colizzi was engaged in an ongoing managerial conflict with both the Administrative Manager of the Center (Dr. Fouda), and the Chairman of the Managing Committee (Mr Jean-Stéphane Biatcha). Prof Colizzi appealed to Richard Roberts (Nobel Laureate in Physiology or Medecine) to intervene on his behalf with the President of Cameroun, Mr Paul Biya. I myself tried to moderate the terms of an aggressive letter written by Dr Roberts to President Biya (enclosed letter).
The new Statutes of CIRCB
It was agreed by most members of the Managing Committee, by its President, Mr Biatcha, and its Vice-president, myself, that it was important for the CIRCB to follow the usual model of Research Institutes by giving the leadership to a General Director, who should be a scientist and not an Administrative manager.
In a session held in the Spring, 2012, a new project of statutes was accepted by the Managing Committee, then accepted by the Services of the Prime Minister with minor modifications and finally promulgated by President Paul Biya by Decree of May 31, 2012. Meanwhile, I accepted the proposal by the Managing Committee to be the Interim Scientific Director, the position left vacant by the departure of Colizzi. I received an email from R. Roberts commenting favorably on my increased involvement in the Center. With the agreement of Mr. Biatcha, and according to the new Statutes, I notified the present Members of the Scientific Committee of the end of their mandate, thanking them for their valued and competent contribution.
I also informed our scientific personnel that they could continue their research projects, in particular the detection of HIV infection in newborns and the fast detection of resistance mutations. Also, new projects will be started under my direction, such as the identification of the viral reservoir resistant to ARVs, a key project whose achievement could permit the eradication of HIV infection. An important project, already accepted by the former Scientific Council, was to create a core facility for clinical trials inside or near the Center.
The use by some members of the Scientific Council, of the allegations made by S. Salzberg in the e-blog of a US based magazine
My studies on the role of microbial infections in chronic diseases led me, in 2010, to search for a coherent organic origin of autism. The hypothesis is not new that abnormal passage of bacterial products from the gut to the blood circulation and from the blood to the brain could affect the maturation of neurones in children. But I was able to confirm, by a new technology (see below) and also by the clinical experience of my physician colleagues, the validity of this hypothesis. This led me to propose highly regulated courses of appropriate antibiotics, administered with antifungal and antioxidant treatments for improving the condition of young autistic children. Several clinical trials were proposed and submitted to ad hoc ethical committees. Finally, under the aegis of the French Ministry of Health, a double blind trial with placebo will be set up in several centers in France to verify our anecdotal results already obtained in more than 200 children. I realize the multifactorial complexity of autism but the suppression of latent microbial infections may be key for improving this condition and eventually leading to a cure of many autistic children.
It is within this spirit that I responded positively to the invitation of a U.S. association of parents of autistic children, AutismOne, in Chicago, in May 2012. In my talk, I described the results obtained in Europe by the above mentioned antibiotic treatment, and the new technology for detection of bacterial DNA in the blood, and our physio-pathogenic explanation. Among the possible multifactorial origins of autism, I never cite vaccinations. Yet, a Forbes journalist entitled his article : “French Nobelist joins the anti-vaccination crowd”.
My position on vaccines has not changed over the last 30 years : the principle has proved to be excellent in the past. Smallpox has been eradicated in the world thanks to the use of vaccination, with attenuated vaccinia virus. But some had to pay a horrific price : encephalitis in a certain number of children. Over the years, vaccinations against bacteria and viruses have multiplied, appearing as the most cost-effective way to prevent epidemics. However, side effects are becoming more important and a single death cannot be tolerated any longer. Many parents have observed a temporal association - which does not mean causation - between a vaccination by puncture and the appearance of autism symptoms. This should not be neglected by the medical community and public health decision makers. It is therefore of prime importance to study the risk factors, both environmental and genetic, which could be involved in order to prevent them. Presumably, vaccination, especially vaccination against multiple antigens, could be a trigger of a pre-existing pathological situation in some children.
The vaccine denialists are not the courageous individuals who raise the problems of vaccination accidents, but are those people who deny the existence of these tragic accidents. The latter believe in the dogma “vaccines are good”, period. They are forgetting the Hippocratic oath : primum, non nocere. First, do no harm.
In the particular case of HIV vaccination, several candidates have failed to show efficacy and I posit why : the existence of HIV transmissible forms, invisible to the immune system. Without the identification of these forms and their inclusion in vaccine, no sufficient level of protection could be expected.
With the likely impossibility of an HIV vaccine, a very serious problem arises for the control of AIDS epidemic worldwide : the inclusion of a large number of African patients, and the necessity to maintain their ARV treatment for the rest of their lives, make almost unavoidable the emergence and diffusion of resistant viral strains. The consequences are limited in industrialized countries, in which the HIV prevalence is 0.1 %, and where second or third line expensive viral inhibitors can be utilized. In African countries, where HIV prevalence varies between 5 % to 20 % or more, the application of these new inhibitors will be economically unsustainable.
Therefore it is of prime importance to find an alternative solution : to identify the viral reservoir which remains insensitive to viral inhibitors and to decrease the size of this reservoir by appropriate complementary treatments, so that virus multiplication will not resume after a limited treatment of ARV.
This is why I would like to engage our African Research Centers in this new direction, and to link them to the multiple collaborations we have already set up in a number of African countries : I hope that CIRCB can contribute to this goal – ultimately AIDS free Africa - benefiting from our ongoing research.
New tools, new concepts and attacks ad hominem
It is generally recognized that Nobel laureates are less productive in science in their “post Nobel” life. There are a few exceptions ; I am trying to be one of these.
At the end of my carrier at the Pasteur Institute (2000), I came across a phenomenon difficult to explain by our current knowledge. Filtration by commercial filters is a well accepted method to sterilize biological solutions which cannot stand sterilization by heat ; for instance, serums for cell culture are filtrated by 200 nM filters to remove any mycoplasma contamination. I discovered that such filtrates - considered sterile by lack of growth in cell-free medium and lack of DNA by PCR – would still generate the original mycoplasma organism when incubated with human lymphocytes.
This result – repeated more than 100 times – led me to investigate the properties of the main constituent of the filtrate : water, in particular by applying the technologies already used by the collaborators of the late Jacques Benveniste. In 2005, in our laboratory that I was leasing at the Institut Armand Frappier of Laval (Canada), an astonishing phenomenon appeared to us : by capturing electromagnetic signals from aqueous dilutions of biological molecules, I could see for the first time a significant increase of their amplitude over the background noise, but only in some dilutions. Benveniste’s preparations never showed a visible increase of signal amplitude whatever the dilutions. This was July 13, 2005. My collaborator and I were enthusiastic.
Use of Fourier transforms indicated soon afterwards that there were new frequencies emitted by resonance in the range of 1000-3000 Hertz appearing over the noise.
Very soon also we could extend this observation to many preparations of bacteria, viruses and patients’ plasmas. Initial filtration and then strong vortex shaking between dilutions were absolutely necessary to observe the phenomenon.
A few months later, we identified the source of the signals : it was some specific DNA sequences, which are different from one microorganism to another.
By studying cohorts, we could also associate the presence of this particular DNA with some chronic diseases : Alzheimer, Parkinson, Multiple Sclerosis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Autism and HIV infection.
In the case of HIV, we had two surprises : the signals coming mostly from the LTR region of HIV DNA were more intense in the plasma of patients treated by ARVs and not having detectable virus load (RNA) in their blood. Moreover, viral DNA and the signals were also associated with the red blood cell fraction.
Are we dealing with an HIV reservoir, which accumulates under antiretroviral therapy ?
Time came for publishing these results. But in which journal ? The experimental work was touching so many different disciplines, from quantum physics to virology and immunology, that I doubted whether any peer-reviewer could draw a global evaluation.
Even as of today, the persisting negative reaction of some Nobel Laureates indicates a lack of understanding of new scientific facts and a refusal to admit the existence of something they do not understand : “I just do not believe it !”, they say. This is not a scientific attitude.
Finally, I choose to publish the first two papers in a new interdisciplinary journal – “Interdisciplinary Sciences“- founded in Shanghai by a colleague, Professor Dongqing Wei, who was not afraid to publish intriguing new data.
As is generally accepted, as Chairman of the Editorial Board of a new journal, I was asked by the Editor-in-Chief, Dongqing Wei, to contribute papers for its launching. My two papers were quickly published. These papers were the two most cited in the first two years of the journal.
This was not a unique situation encountered in my career. In 1963, I published in “Nature” with Kingsley Sanders the first evidence of a double -stranded RNA in the replication of a single stranded RNA virus. The paper was immediately accepted after its submission to “Nature” and I received the galley proofs within two weeks.
DNA transduction by water nanostructure and EMS
Since the beginning of my work in this new field, I was concerned by two issues :
- Can water structures formed by EMS carry the genetic information of the original DNA ?
- In order for a discovery to be accepted by the scientific community, it has to be reproduced by independent laboratories.
As of today, we have positive answers for both of those questions.
I presented for the first time at the Nobel Conference in Lindau, in June 2010, the first evidence of accurate transmission by waves of a DNA sequence, the LTR fragment of HIV, through formation of nanostructures in water.
This was described in more detail and more theoretical elaboration by physicist colleagues in the Journal of Physics in a peer-reviewed article (L MONTAGNIER, J AISSA, E DEL GIUDICE, C LAVALLEE, A TEDESCHI and G VITIELLO. 2011.
DNA waves and water. J. Phys. : Conference Series Volume 306 Number 1. 012007).
My presentation in Lindau was an attempt to pay a sort of homage to the Nobel Institution while giving to my colleague laureates and to the students also invited at this Conference some flavor of ongoing provocative scientific research.
Since then, we have gone even farther, by showing transmission to a remote laboratory via internet of the digitalized record of the signal emitted by a particular DNA sequence ; the receiving laboratory was able to reconstitute the exact DNA sequence (ranging from a 104 base pair fragment to a 499 base pair fragment) from the water instructed by the magnetic component of the signal, by using the ingredients necessary to synthesize DNA by PCR.
This eliminates any criticism of contamination, since the emitter laboratory (in Paris) was distantly located and had no physical contact with the receiver laboratories (one in Germany, one in Italy) !
A US laboratory reports similar results.
I realize how audacious, and even shocking, these successful experiments may appear to unprepared minds. But, as Louis Pasteur used to say, “Fortune smiles on prepared minds“.
This, of course, raises many questions to be resolved, such as :
- Do the nanostructures circulating in the blood play a role in the pathogeny of diseases ?
- How a TAQ DNA polymerase can read a DNA sequence on a water nanostructure stable for hours and days ?
- Are all DNA polymerases able to possess this skill ?
- Is it a general phenomenon existing from the origin of life ?
- Are other DNA sequences, including those of the human genome, also able to emit EMS under certain conditions ? If so, what role are they playing in the ontogeny and phylogeny of living organisms ?
I am urging my scientific and medical colleagues - and in particular the Nobel laureates - to participate in this inspiring adventure, instead of being negative and fueling a rear-guard combat.