From Plants to Animals to Us.
In 1946 the United States’ chief of biological weapons development reported to the Secretary of Defence that the research scientists had managed to isolate the disease active principal of bacteria in a crystalline form. This accomplishment held great significance for the creation of effective weapons. One of the major problems encountered in biowar research prior to this was the fact that bacteria were very hard to keep alive and dangerous until they could be used against an enemy. Further, methods of dispersing bacteria, such as putting them into bombs, often killed the payload before it got started. Finally, it was hard to target an enemy without exposing one’s own forces to the disease agents being used. There was always the great danger of ‘blow-back’ as happened in Korea when the U.S. tried to use the Hantavirus against the North Korean forces.
Now, if one could take only that part of a disease-carrying bacterium, and remove just the part that specifically caused the disease from its source in the form of crystals which would be easy to carry and easy to target on a foe, one would obviate many of the problems. This is just what George Merck and his researchers had learned how to do by 1946.
Reports as to just which bacteria were used in developing this crystalline and highly portable disease agent are still hidden in the Pentagon archives; however. Circumstantial evidence suggests that one of them was based on the Brucella bacteria. This highly contagious capsulated bacteria causes disease in both animals and humans. The disease that presents was named after Sir David Bruce [1855-1931], a British bacteriologist who was studying the disease on the island of Malta. The symptoms of brucellosis are dramatically similar to the symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome… just what Merigan and Stevens and others in the biowar weapons program were working on in the 1960-70’s: weakness, extreme fatigue, night sweats, generalized aches and pains.
Whichever bacteria it was that Merck was talking about, the potential was clear. The disease active principal could be removed from its living source as inert crystals, and then could be communicated to the target with more precision by way of various vectors: aerosol, insect bites, or food chain. And, furthermore, regardless of which bacteria it was derived from, the new bioweapon had to be tested.
Biological weapons testing poses great hazards to all of humanity, including the testers and their families. One way to limit such danger is to do the testing in a remote, hard to access place such as an island… preferably a foreign island, such as Iceland.
That’s where Dr. Bjorn Sigurdsson of Iceland enters into the history of AIDS.
Bjorn Sigurdsson was born in Iceland in 1913 and died from kidney cancer 49 years later (1959). At the age of 24 he had graduated in medicine from the University at Reykjavik, and did further studies in Denmark. In 1941 he made another career move: he entered the Rockefeller Institute in New Jersey to study plant virology and animal virology to complement his existing expertise in human virology. From plants to animals to humans! You’ll learn the significance of this continuum later, and we’ll learn that Robert Gallo had been an early student of the science. However, at this point we need only note the entry onto the scene of the Rockefeller Institute.
Sigurdsson apparently made quite an impression upon the powers that be in the Rockefeller empire, for, after completing his plants to animals to humans virology, he returned to Iceland with a $200,000 grant from the Rockefeller Foundation to establish an Institute of Experimental Pathology. Get that name:’ experimental pathology’… Everyone understands ‘experimental’ meaning to test ideas about something, and when it is coupled with ‘pathology’, the origin and nature of diseases, the name of Sigurdsson’s new Institute is at least highly suggestive.
Sigurdsson was on his way to discovering the other factor in the AIDS co-factors: the retrovirus. Let’s trace his progress.
As luck would have it, and just after Sigurdsson’s return to Iceland, a rather remote Island in the North Atlantic which at that time was under the control of the United States’ Government, a ‘mystery’ disease broke out in the northern part of the country. But Sigurdsson was on hand to rush to the main town affected, Akureyri, and give the victims the benefit of his education in virology.
In Akureyri, Sigurdsson found that some 1,116 school children and young adults had become ill with a disease that looked for the entire world like brucellosis, but with a strange presence in a few cases of paralysis. Furthermore, something even stranger presented. In five of the children Parkinson’s Disease developed, and rapidly progressed, killing the victims.
One must keep constantly in mind that this outbreak of what appeared to be a bacterial disease (brucellosis) without the presence of the bacteria itself developed at almost the same time that George Merck was reporting that his researchers had managed to isolate the disease active principal from bacteria such as brucella.
Then something else occurred that merits reporting. After the outbreak of what came to be called ‘chronic fatigue syndrome’ a contingent of scientists, doctors, and other researchers arrived in Akureyri from none other than the Rockefeller Institute to measure the extent of the epidemic, and the continuing consequences. Sigurdsson was, of course, on hand to make his patrons at home.
After the Rockefeller contingent had completed their survey, Sigurdsson went on with his work in an area largely unexplored up until then: retroviruses.
Before going further let’s recapitulate what we have noted thus far. In the United States Robert Huebner was working towards the discovery of the mycoplasma, which is essentially a virus without a protein coat. Because certain species of the mycoplasma have an absolute growth requirement for the up-take of pre-formed sterols (including cholesterol … and keep this in mind when we get to Gallo) they can cause the ‘spontaneous degeneration’ of the cells that they invade.
If they do not cause sufficient damage to kill the cell, they at least compromise its capacity to defend itself from other disease agents, such as those which present as Kaposi’s sarcoma, pneumoniae carinii pneumonia, lymphadenopathy, and so on.
In Iceland Bjorn Sigurdsson was busy searching for the secrets of the retroviruses. After all, one of the better known retroviruses was one which infected sheep, [with sheep raising a major industry in Iceland] and was called ‘Visna’, which means ‘wasting’ in Danish. As a matter of fact there are three variants of the visna virus: Visna, itself, plus Maedi [name derived from the Danish for ‘shortness of breath’] and a third referred to as PPS…because it causes a ‘progressive pneumonia of the sheep’, and is sometimes referred to as OPP or ‘Ovine Progressive Pneumonia.’
There are two factors worthy of note here. One is the fact that the diseases in the sheep have so much in common with AIDS and CFS in humans. The wasting quality is characteristic of both, and the significant linkage to respiratory illnesses is another. In fact, in one tribute to Sigurdsson published in 1991, the late doctor was credited with laying “the base upon which AIDS research was later built.” This despite the fact that AIDS was not officially known until 1981 and Sigurdsson had died 22 years before!
The principal symptom of visna is that derived from the extreme itch which accompanies the disease. This leads infected sheep to rub themselves against trees or posts until their wool is ‘scraped’ off and hence is called scrapie. The latter word has now entered into the lexicon of western medicine where it is defined as a usually fatal disease of the nervous system characterized by emaciation, weakness and paralysis and caused by a slow virus. On autopsy the distinguishing feature of an infected brain and to a limited extent certain other organs such as the heart, is the presence of intracellular fibrillary tangles.
It was to this group of retroviruses that Sigurdsson largely devoted his research after he had finished up his 1946 to 1948 work on the mystery outbreak of CFS among school children and had acted as escort for the visiting Rockefeller investigative team.
Thus, while Huebner was appearing in the literature with articles such as “Isolation of a cytopathogenic agent [the mycoplasma] from human adenoids undergoing spontaneous degeneration in tissue culture” based upon military financed research, Sigurdsson was appearing with articles such as “Visna, a demyelinating transmissible disease of sheep” based upon Rockefeller financed research. Here you have the co-factors of AIDS: the mycoplasma and the retrovirus
Concurrent with the work of Huebner and Sigurdsson was related work by several other scientists most of whom were to appear in the Special Virus Leukemia/Lymphoid/ Cancer Reports a few years later. Among those who will turn up later in this study are J. B. Moloney, a great friend of Robert Gallo. Moloney even misappropriated money to help Gallo according to Gallo’s own admission. Another interesting researcher whose work is reported in the literature of the period is Dr. Brian Mahy. [p.26, bellow]. Like Moloney, Mahy was not only someone whose work is tied in closely with AIDS/CFS research, but also like Moloney, Mahy misappropriated over four million dollars given to him by Congress to study CFS. Then there is Dr. Maurice Hilleman who later turns up as the Chief Virologist for George Merck Pharmaceuticals. [You may recall the Merck was once the Head of the Biological and Chemical Weapons research for the U.S. Government. And there was Robert Manaker whose surname initial turns up as part of the MK-SVLP operation. Finally, in this time frame there was another Rockefeller protege: Dr. Hilary Koprowski, whose research deserves a separate article (see below), for he took the science of Huebner and Sigurdsson and turned their results into the crime beyond belief: AIDS.
Bjorn Sigurdsson’s whole career is colored by the fact that in the early 1940s he attended the Rockefeller Institute to study plant and animal virology. Since he was already an accomplished and well-regarded medical doctor, the focus upon plant and animal diseases is very suggestive. Also, the fact that the microorganism known as the mycoplasma infects plants, animals and humans can provide a reason for extending his scientific foundation beyond that which he already possessed. In addition, the wartime efforts to adapt certain animal diseases to affect humans as biological weapons [brucellosis for example] suggest that his links with the eugenics-minded Rockefeller Institute and his broadened studies were not based simply upon a professional desire to be better informed.
It is evident that Sigurdsson was an early recruit to the Rockefeller stable [see article below] and that his long-term goal was to master zoonotic diseases such as the retroviral sheep disease, Visna. The Rockefeller Foundation advanced such work by funding Sigurdsson’s Reykjavik -based Institute of Experimental Pathology. Sigurdsson was also on hand in Iceland to monitor the evident trial of a disabling disease, which possessed many of the same symptoms as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.