HIV: A Grouse-shooting Analogy

The Hot Papers article1 of Dec. 6 on the failure of various combinations of antibiotics to eradicate latent HIV gives the false impression that AIDS researchers were not aware of this possibility. ("Scientists are still grappling with the questions raised by this sobering discovery.") Doctors learn at medical school the fundamental rule that antibiotics should be given for short periods in adequate doses to destroy all pathogens and prevent the emergence of resistant strains. As soon as it was

Donald Forsdyke
Jan 23, 2000

The Hot Papers article1 of Dec. 6 on the failure of various combinations of antibiotics to eradicate latent HIV gives the false impression that AIDS researchers were not aware of this possibility. ("Scientists are still grappling with the questions raised by this sobering discovery.")

Doctors learn at medical school the fundamental rule that antibiotics should be given for short periods in adequate doses to destroy all pathogens and prevent the emergence of resistant strains. As soon as it was appreciated that AIDS was caused by a retrovirus, it was predictable that antibiotics alone would be unlikely to work. Retroviruses usually have a latency option and are highly prone to mutate.

Thus, future therapy would have to be rather like grouse-shooting; one would need guns to shoot the birds and beaters to flush them out. To rid an area of grouse neither alone suffices. The combination is lethal.2

Accordingly,...

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