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Peter Duesberg

Peter H. Duesberg (born December 2, 1936 in Germany) is a professor of molecular and cell biology at the University of California, Berkeley, best known for his controversial theories on the cause of AIDS.

Duesberg initially gained note, at the age of 33, for being the first scientist to discover a cancer gene (oncogene), which he isolated from a virus.[1] At 36, he earned tenure at the University of California, Berkeley, and at 49 he was elected to the National Academy of Sciences. He was also the recipient of an Outstanding Investigator Grant (OIG) from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in 1986, and from 1986-87 was a Fogarty Scholar-in-Residence at the NIH laboratory in Bethesda, Maryland.

Duesberg began to gain notoriety with a March 1987 article in Cancer Research entitled "Retroviruses as Carcinogens and Pathogens: Expectations and Reality".[2] On the basis of his experience with retroviruses, Duesberg has challenged the scientific consensus that HIV is the cause of AIDS. His letters and commentary on the subject have since been published in other journals including Lancet, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Science, Nature, Journal of AIDS, AIDS Forschung, Biomedicine and Pharmacotherapeutics, the New England Journal of Medicine and Research in Immunology. Duesberg has instead proposed the hypothesis that the various American and European diseases identified as AIDS are in fact caused by the long-term consumption of recreational drugs and/or AZT, a drug that is prescribed to prevent or treat AIDS.[3] Duesberg's HIV/AIDS claims are rejected as disproven and incorrect by the scientific community.[4][5]

In 1984, before he publicly questioned HIV's role in AIDS, Duesberg was praised for his work by Robert Gallo, the co-discoverer of HIV.[6]


His work


Main article: Duesberg hypothesis

Duesberg has offered, in his 1996 book Inventing the AIDS Virus[7] as well as elsewhere, an alternative hypothesis on HIV/AIDS, asserting that recreational and pharmaceutical drug use (especially AZT, a drug used in the treatment of AIDS) and not HIV are the primary causes of AIDS outside Africa (the so-called Duesberg hypothesis). He considers AIDS diseases as markers for drug use, e.g. use of alkyl nitrites among some homosexuals, pointing out a correlation between AIDS and recreational drug use.[8] This correlation hypothesis is considered disproven, however, by evidence showing that only HIV positivity, not homosexuality or recreational/pharmaceutical drug use, predicts who will develop AIDS.[4][5][9][10]

Duesberg asserts that AIDS in Africa is mostly misdiagnosed (he notes that the diagnostic criteria for AIDS are different in Africa)[11] and that the breakdown of the immune system in African AIDS patients is explained by malnutrition, bad drinking water, and other infections.[citation needed] Duesberg also argues that retroviruses like HIV must be harmless to survive, because after reverse transcription from RNA to DNA, they depend on cell division to replicate (their normal mode of propagation is from mother to child).[citation needed]

Since Duesberg published his first paper on the subject in 1987, mainstream scientists have examined and criticized the accuracy of his hypotheses on AIDS causation. A number of scientific criticisms of Duesberg's hypothesis were summarised in a review article in the journal Science in 1994, which presented the results of a 3-month scientific investigation into some of Duesberg's claims.[12]

In the Science article, science writer Jon Cohen interviewed both mainstream scientists and AIDS dissidents (including Duesberg himself) and examined the AIDS literature, including papers written by Duesberg. The article stated:

...although the Berkeley virologist raises provocative questions, few researchers find his basic contention that HIV is not the cause of AIDS persuasive. Mainstream AIDS researchers argue that Duesberg’s arguments are constructed by selective reading of the scientific literature, dismissing evidence that contradicts his theses, requiring impossibly definitive proof, and dismissing outright studies marked by inconsequential weaknesses.

The article also stated that although Duesberg and the dissident movement have garnered support from some prominent mainstream scientists, including Nobel Prize winners, most of this support is related to Duesberg’s right to hold a dissenting opinion, rather than support of his specific claim that HIV does not cause AIDS.

In 2000 South African President Thabo Mbeki included Duesberg and other AIDS dissidents on a Presidential Advisory Panel on HIV and AIDS,[13] which Mbeki scheduled to convene concurrently with the 2000 International AIDS Conference being held in Durban. The views of the dissidents on the panel, aired at the same time the mainstream AIDS conference was meeting, received renewed attention. Mbeki has since suffered substantial political fallout for voicing support for the Duesberg AIDS hypothesis[14][15] and for opposing the treatment of pregnant South African women with antiretroviral medication.[16] In response to the inclusion of dissidents on Mbeki's panel, the Durban declaration was drafted and signed by over 5,000 scientists, describing the evidence that HIV causes AIDS as "clear-cut, exhaustive and unambiguous."[17]

On cancer

Duesberg disputes the importance of oncogenes and retroviruses in cancer. He supports the aneuploidy hypothesis of cancer[18] that was first proposed in 1914 by Theodor Heinrich Boveri.[19]

Although research into aneuploidy and cancer is nothing new[20] (about 5000 scientific papers were published on aneuploidy before Duesberg became involved), Duesberg's contributions to aneuploidy research are somewhat unique in that he rejects the importance of mutations, oncogenes, and anti-oncogenes entirely. Duesberg et al., in a 1998 paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, reported a mathematical correlation between chromosome number and the genetic instability of cancer cells, which they dubbed "the ploidy factor,"[21] confirming earlier research by other groups[22] that demonstrated an association between degree of aneuploidy and metastasis. Although unwilling to concur with Duesberg in throwing out a role for cancer genes, many researchers do support exploration of alternative hypotheses.[23] Research and debate on this subject is ongoing. In 2007, Scientific American published an article by Duesberg[24] on his aneuploidy cancer theory. In an editorial explaining their decision to publish this article, the editors of Scientific American stated: "Thus, as wrong as Duesberg surely is about HIV, there is at least a chance that he is significantly right about cancer."[25]

Controversy over Inventing the AIDS Virus

Duesberg's book Inventing the AIDS Virus was initially co-written with Bryan Ellison, one of his graduate students at the University of California, Berkeley. However, following a 1994 dispute over manuscript changes, Ellison published the manuscript himself, under the title Why We Will Never Win the War on AIDS, listing himself as the lead author. A dispute between Duesberg and Ellison resulted, with Ellison charging that Duesberg was "doing favors on behalf of several people in the government" who wished to suppress the book.[26] Duesberg's website describes the dispute in terms of Ellison becoming "disenchanted with Duesberg's and his publisher's insistence on careful documentation."[27]

Ellison also charged Duesberg with "cooperat[ing] with some of the very hostile factors to have me thrown out of school right before I could submit my thesis and get my Ph.D." For his part, Duesberg stated, regarding Ellison, that "...since he didn't talk to me anymore and didn't show up at the lab, I couldn't pay him anymore."[26] Ultimately, Duesberg and Regnery Publishing sued Ellison, winning a "six-figure verdict" and an injunction against Ellison's manuscript.[27] Duesberg's version of the manuscript was published by Regnery under the title Inventing the AIDS Virus.


  1. ^ National Academy of Sciences Profile: Peter Duesberg, accessed 6 Jan 2007.
  2. ^ Duesberg P (1987). "Retroviruses as carcinogens and pathogens: expectations and reality". Cancer Res 47 (5): 1199-220. PMID 3028606. Full text available online.
  3. ^ Peter Duesberg's website, accessed 16 Sept 2006.
  4. ^ a b National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Disease Fact Sheet: The Evidence that HIV causes AIDS. Accessed 8 Jan 2007.
  5. ^ a b Schechter M, Craib K, Gelmon K, Montaner J, Le T, O'Shaughnessy M (1993). "HIV-1 and the aetiology of AIDS". Lancet 341 (8846): 658-9. PMID 8095571.
  6. ^ Praise for Duesberg from Robert Gallo, on Duesberg's website, accessed 16 Sept 2006.
  7. ^ ISBN 0-89526-399-8
  8. ^ Duesberg, Peter Inventing the AIDS Virus (1996), pp. 260-269. ISBN 0-89526-399-8
  9. ^ Vermund S, Hoover D, Chen K (1993). "CD4+ counts in seronegative homosexual men. The Multicenter AIDS Cohort Study". N Engl J Med 328 (6): 442. PMID 8093639.
  10. ^ Des Jarlais D, Friedman S, Marmor M, Mildvan D, Yancovitz S, Sotheran J, Wenston J, Beatrice S (1993). "CD4 lymphocytopenia among injecting drug users in New York City". J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr 6 (7): 820-2. PMID 8099613.
  11. ^ AIDS: Scientific or Viral Catastrophe? by Neville Hodgkinson, 2003, accessed 11 October 2006.
  12. ^ Science Magazine series critically reviewing Duesberg's hypothesis, accessed 16 Sept 2006.
  13. ^ Reuters article, "S.Africa AIDS panel to validate HIV tests," by Emelia Sithole, accessed 6 Jan 2007.
  14. ^ Prospect Magazine, "Thabo Mbeki's catastrophe," by Chris McGreal, March 2002 online version accessed 6 Jan 2007.
  15. ^, "Mbeki fails to break the silence," by Charles E. Clifton, September/October 2000, accessed 6 Jan 2007,
  16. ^ Time Magazine, "Why South Africa Questions the Link Between HIV and AIDS," by Tony Karon, April 21, 2000, online version accessed 6 Jan 2007.
  17. ^ Text of the Durban Declaration, accessed 13 October 2006.
  18. ^ Bialy, Harvey, Oncogenes Aneuploidy and AIDS, A Scientific Life and Times of Peter Duesberg (2004), pp. 217-278. ISBN 1-55643-531-2
  19. ^ [1]
  20. ^ Offerhaus GJ, De Feyter EP, Cornelisse CJ, Tersmette KW, Floyd J, Kern SE, Vogelstein B, Hamilton SR. "The relationship of DNA aneuploidy to molecular genetic alterations in colorectal carcinoma." Gastroenterology. 1992 May;102(5):1612-9.
  21. ^ Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, "Genetic instability of cancer cells is proportional to their degree of aneuploidy," by Peter Duesberg, Charlotte Rausch, David Rasnick, Ruediger Hehlmann, Vol. 95, Issue 23, November 10, 1998, online version accessed 6 Jan 2007.
  22. ^ Wahlstrom B, Branehog I, Stierner U, Sunzel H, Holmberg E. "Association of ploidy and cell proliferation, Dukes' classification, and histopathological differentiation in adenocarcinomas of colon and rectum." Eur J Surg. 1992 Apr;158(4):237-42; discussion 242-3.
  23. ^ Scientific American, "Untangling the Roots of Cancer," by W. Wayt Gibbs, July 2003, online version accessed 6 Jan 2007.
  24. ^ Scientific American, "Chromosomal Chaos and Cancer," by Peter Duesberg, May 2007, p. 52-59, online version accessed 23 Apr 2007.
  25. ^ Scientific American, "When Pariahs Have Good Ideas" by The Editors, May 2007, online version accessed 23 Apr 2007.
  26. ^ a b "Outbreak", by Ellen McGarrahan. Published in SFWeekly on 24 May 1995. Accessed 8 Jan 2007.
  27. ^ a b Publisher's preface to Inventing the AIDS Virus, from the website. Accessed 8 Jan 2007.


  • Bialy, Harvey, Oncogenes Aneuploidy and AIDS, A Scientific Life and Times of Peter Duesberg, North Atlantic Books, 2004, ISBN 1-55643-531-2
  • Duesberg, Peter H., Inventing the AIDS Virus, Regnery, 1996, ISBN 0-89526-399-8
  • Duesberg, Peter H., and Ellison, Bryan J., Inventing the AIDS Epidemic, St. Martin's Press, 1994, ISBN 0-312-11293-9
  • Duesberg, Peter H., and Yiamouyiannis, John, AIDS: The Good News Is HIV Doesn't Cause It, Health Action Press, 1995, ISBN 0-913571-05-9

Mainstream scientific

  • Science Magazine, "The Controversy Over HIV and AIDS," by Jon Cohen, December 1994. A series of articles that deals with the arguments of Duesberg and other dissidents.
  •, "À Duesberg, Adieu!" by John Moore, March 1996. A review of Duesberg's book Inventing the AIDS Virus, on a website that was created by research scientists and community advocates with a focus on rebutting AIDS dissident arguments.


  • Peter Duesberg's cancer research web site
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Peter_Duesberg". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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