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Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Duped by Denialists: Final Verdict on Editor of Medical Hypotheses Part III

Times Higher Education
10 March 2010

Ultimatum spells end for Medical Hypotheses in its current form. Zoë Corbyn reports
The editor of the journal Medical Hypotheses has been given until 15 March either to implement changes to adopt a traditional peer-review system, or to resign.
He has also been told that even if he stays with the journal, his contract will not be renewed at the end of the year.
As Times Higher Education reported in January, publisher Elsevier is attempting to rein in its unorthodox journal, which publishes papers on the basis of how interesting or radical they are rather than using peer review, after it published a paper last July that denied the link between HIV and Aids.
The article prompted an outcry from Aids researchers, leading Elsevier to propose changes to both introduce peer review and exclude papers on certain controversial topics.

But Elsevier’s plans have been vehemently opposed by the journal’s editor, Bruce Charlton, its editorial advisory board and a large number of Medical Hypotheses’ authors, who have mounted a campaign to save the journal, believing it offers an important outlet for radical ideas.
Professor Charlton said: “Elsevier is asking me either to resign immediately, or else immediately to begin implementing changes that it has unilaterally and irrationally demanded. But my conscience will not allow me… I cannot do either of these things.”
The news comes as two controversial papers on the Aids virus that had been retracted from the journal following the outcry are “permanently withdrawn” after they failed to pass the test of peer review.
The papers in question are “HIV-AIDS hypothesis out of touch with South African AIDS: A new perspective” by Peter Duesberg, professor of molecular and cell biology at the University of California, Berkeley, and a paper published the same month, “AIDS denialism at the ministry of health” by Marco Ruggiero, professor of molecular biology at the University of Florence.
Both papers are being permanently withdrawn from the scientific record, even though the Ruggiero paper does not deny the link between HIV and Aids, but argues that the Italian Ministry of Health seemed not to believe that HIV is the “sole cause” of the Aids virus.
The papers were both rejected unanimously by five anonymous reviewers in a process managed by The Lancet, another Elsevier journal.
But Professor Charlton said he rejected both the process and outcome of this assessment, and accused Elsevier of running a “show trial” and making a “gross mistake”.
“I do not acknowledge the validity of deleting these papers from the scientific literature,” said the professor of theoretical medicine at the University of Buckingham.
“I do not acknowledge the validity of the Elsevier process of reviewing these papers, nor do I consider the referees’ reports relevant to the criteria I use in selecting papers.”
He added that it was “ludicrous” that the Ruggiero paper, which he said was “the opposite of an HIV denialist paper”, had been bracketed with the Duesberg paper.
He said that “since this gross mistake has not been acknowledged”, the evaluation process had not been rigorous enough.
Professor Ruggiero said he believed his paper was “condemned from the very beginning” of the process, “probably because of the word ‘denialism’ in the title”.
Elsevier declined to comment on the developments, saying it was engaged in a “private discussion” with the editor about the future of the journal.
It has previously said that the Duesberg paper contained opinions “that could potentially be damaging to global public health”.


  1. He added that it was “ludicrous” that the Ruggiero paper, which he said was “the opposite of an HIV denialist paper”, had been bracketed with the Duesberg paper.

    Charlton is an idiot.

    The Ruggiero paper is a silly rhetorical device. Ruggiero didn't have the guts to state his beliefs and so he he pretends that the Italian Ministry of Health are the HIV Denialists.

    If Ruggiero was actually interested in the position of the Italian Ministry of Health he could have asked them.

  2. Chris
    Charlton could have avoided this mess if he would have just asked anyone who knows anything about AIDS to read the paper. How arrogant to think that one person can know enough about everything to determine whether to publish any given paper. The concept for Med Hypotheses obviously failed. Maybe under new editorship it can become a respectable outlet for sane and rational ideas.

  3. You don't have to know anything about AIDS to recognise that the Ruggiero paper does not actually describe a medical hypothesis.

    At least the Duesberg paper does fulfill the concept of a medical hypothesis even though it is not novel and is not supported by the evidence.

  4. The Claim: Milk Makes You Phlegmy
    Many people believe milk leads to upper-respiratory congestion, but studies have generally dismissed it as an old wives’ tale. In one well-known experiment, scientists found that even people inoculated with the common cold virus did not exhibit a statistically significant increase in symptoms or nasal secretions when they drank milk.
    But a new report suggests a possible explanation: only a small group of people are susceptible. The theory is described in Medical Hypotheses, a journal devoted to publishing bold and sometimes radical biomedical theories.
    In their report, the authors point to studies showing that not all milk is the same. Some types of milk, from certain breeds of cow, contain a protein called beta-CM-7, which has been shown in studies to stimulate mucus glands in the digestive tract. These glands are also found in the respiratory tract, where they are known to overproduce mucus in conditions caused by inflammation, like asthma.
    The authors assert that consuming milk containing the beta-CM-7 protein may stimulate phlegm in the respiratory tract, particularly in people with chronic lung conditions.
    “These prerequisites,” they write, “could explain why only a subgroup of the population, who have increased respiratory tract mucus production, find that many of their symptoms, including asthma, improve on a dairy-elimination diet.”
    There may be a link between milk and phlegm in some people, but for now it is only hypothetical.

  5. above report from New York Times