Friday, January 13, 2012

Shyh-Ching Lo

Every American adult should have a small scar on his upper arm or thigh: a smallpox vaccination. Smallpox once was a deadly scourge-killing millions. Vaccinations have virtually wiped it out. It's an ingenious concept: You introduce a minuscule amount of weakened or dead disease-causing bugs into the human system. The body responds by producing antibodies-a natural antidote that neutralizes the invading bug. Once you have the antibodies, you're immune. So why is it such devastating news when a person tests positive for HIV antibodies?

Shyh-Ching Lo, the researcher in charge of AIDS programs for the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, doesn't believe it should be: The presence of the antibodies to HIV-far from being a sign of doom-is proof the body is capable of coping with the virus, Lo contends. Nobody is able to explain how the dormant HIV particles manage to suddenly whip the antibodies.

"There is no good explanation for why and how the virus breaks out of the antibody protection," says Lo. "I'm not saying that HIV plays no role in AIDS-the data shows a clear correlation with disease. But AIDS is much more complicated than HIV."

Lo, an obscure microbiologist, with no grants or establishment support, went looking for a new explanation. In 1986 he announced that he had found it: a previously unknown organism that-together with HIV-caused AIDS.

For nearly three years, his theory was ignored. Shyh-Ching Lo's research was turned down for publication almost a dozen times before the Journal of Tropical Medicine, available in few hospital libraries and on no major electronic databases, agreed to print his findings. His attempts to find funding have failed. Even the presentations he has given at professional meetings have gotten him nowhere; his colleagues don't even show up.

The problem was that Lo was using a complex new research technique he had devised himself to come up with a revolutionary finding. Given the stakes, no one was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.
And rightly so.

We have fallen in to cranks and deniers.

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