- Tuberculosis-type bacteria and AIDS
- Are tuberculosis-type bacteria necessary to transform
HIV infection into "full blown" AIDS? Do virus-like and latent
forms of bacteria go unrecognized and undetected in AIDS patients? Could
HIV ("the virus that causes AIDS") actually be a virus-like
form of a TB germ?
- Such questions are blasphemous because most scientists
believe the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is "the sole cause
- However, there is a close link between AIDS and TB. And
infections with tuberculous and non-tuberculous mycobacteria are common
- "opportunistic infections" in AIDS. This communication
will explore the possibility that these bacteria are necessary to allow
HIV infection to progress to full-blown AIDS.
- HIV, pulmonary TB and "atypical" acid-fast
- It must be clearly understood that one cannot catch
HIV/AIDS by close contact with a patient, although HIV is obviously
spread through unprotected sex with an infected person.
- Figure 1: Pleomorphic bacteria in an enlarged
lymph node from an early case of AIDS. Large Russell bodies (RB) and tiny
coccoid forms (arrow) are present. Gram stain, magnification X1000, in
- Figure 2: Tiny coccoid forms of bacteria (arrows)
in the skin tumor of AIDS-related Kaposi's sarcoma. Acid-fast stain, X1000,
- Figure 3: Three areas of purple-stained coccoid
forms of bacteria in an additional case of AIDS-related Kaposi's sarcoma
of the skin. Acid-fast stain, X1000, in oil.
- Figure 4: Three "typical" red-stained acid-fast
rod forms of Mycobacterium avium in an AIDS-related cancerous skin tumor
("immunoblastic sarcoma"). Acid-fast stain, X1000, in oil.
- HIV is not spread in the air. However, the acid-fast
mycobacteria that cause human pulmonary TB can spread from person-to-person
via inhalation. Unlike other bacteria, mycobacteria are colored red or
red-purple when stained with a laboratory acid-fast staining procedure
. Thus, the "acid-fast" stain is used to identify mycobacteria
and is a unique characteristic of these microbes.
- The two common types of acid-fast mycobacteria found
in AIDS are Mycobacterium tuberculosis (the germ that causes human TB)
and Mycobacterium avium. M. tuberculosis is found only in humans, but
other species or types of "non-tuberculous" mycobacteria (like
M. avium) can be found throughout nature, in water, soil, animals and
in man. Please consult the Wikipedia for more details about tuberculosis
and the various species of acid-fast mycobacteria that can infect persons
- HIV and TB mycobacteria are a lethal combination. Someone
who is HIV-positive and infected with TB bacilli is many times more likely
to become sick with TB than someone infected with TB bacilli who is HIV-negative.
Most frightening is the fact that more and more cases of drug-resistant
TB are appearing in HIV-infected patients, particularly in sub-Saharan
- The World Health Organization estimates that every second
someone in the world is newly infected with TB bacteria. One-third of
the world's population is infected with TB microbes. Most infected people
will not develop pulmonary TB because the immune system "walls off"
the TB bacilli and allows them to lie dormant for years. However, when
someone's immune system is weakened, the chances of becoming sick with
TB are greater.
- TB mycobacteria are known to be "pleomorphic,"
in that they can exhibit various growth forms in culture and in tissue.
"Pleomorphic" forms of M. tuberculosis and other species of
"non-tuberculous" and "atypical mycobacteria" have
been studied for decades for their effects on human illness. Unfortunately,
scientists rarely pay attention to these pleomorphic forms; and pathologists
rely primarily on the demonstration of the "typical" acid-fast
rod forms of mycobacteria to diagnose tuberculosis and/or mycobacterial
disease (See Figure 4). This is unfortunate because the acid-fast bacteria
that are demonstrable in AIDS and cancer (and certain other immunological
diseases) are primarily pleomorphic and "filterable" forms,
which often go
- unrecognized (Figures 1-3).
- TB caused by M. tuberculosis is a leading cause of death
among people who are HIV-positive and accounts for about 13% of AIDS
- The type species of acid-fast mycobacterial infection
in AIDS depends largely on the geographic area. For example, M. tuberculosis
is the common acid-fast infection in Africa and in Brazil, while in the
United States M avium complex is the most common species of acid-fast
- Bermudez et al. estimate that 50-60% of U.S. AIDS patients
are infected with the non-tuberculous Mycobacterium avium complex. In
the U.S. it is rare to find a case of M.avium that is not AIDS associated.
- Is HIV the sole cause of AIDS?
- The diagnosis of AIDS requires a patient to be HIV-positive
by blood testing. However, there is a precise clinical difference between
HIV infection and AIDS. It is well-known that some people can be HIV-positive
for many months or years before showing signs of immune system suppression
and/or opportunistic infections characteristic of "full-blown"
AIDS. For this reason it is possible that another infectious agent (in
addition to HIV) might be required to produce full-blown AIDS.
- This communication suggests that mycobacteria and "mycoplasmas"
are a necessary co-factor in AIDS.
- Infection with HIV leads to immunosuppression and inevitable
opportunistic infections. The leading cause of death in AIDS is bacterial
infection; and infection mycobacteria is common in advanced cases of
- Like HIV, mycobacteria can produce immune system damage
and lowering of the CD4 and CD8 lymphocyte blood count that are characteristics
- Although most scientists agree that HIV causes AIDS,
there is a small but highly vocal group of researchers called "The
Perth Group" that deny HIV as the cause. The leading spokesperson
for the Group is molecular biologist Peter Duesberg, who believes AIDS
in gays is due to drugs and a sexual lifestyle. One can Google "The
Perth Group" for details about their objections to HIV. The National
Institutes of Health provides counterarguments on a webpage entitled "The
Evidence that HIV causes AIDS" located at:http://www.niaid.nih.gov/factsheets/evidhiv.htm
- Suffice to say, that neither the AIDS Dissenters nor
the AIDS establishment pays much attention to TB-like bacteria as an
underlying and necessary co-factor in the development of AIDS.
- Is AIDS caused by pleomorphic acid-fast bacteria?
- As mentioned, mycobacteria can exist in forms other than
the typical acid-fast (red-stained) rod-shaped form. Pleomorphic forms
of mycobacteria include cell-wall deficient forms, so-called "L-
forms", filterable forms, granular forms. mycoplasma-like and virus-like
forms, as well as large "giant bodies", some as large as red
- These atypical forms are not well-recognized by scientists,
but such forms have been repeatedly described not only in AIDS, but also
in cancer and in certain immunologic diseases.
- The "virus-like" and "filterable"
and "granular" forms of TB bacteria have been noted by researchers
for more than a
- century. Some of these forms are submicroscopic. The
relationship of these submicroscopic virus-sized forms of mycobacteria
to what scientists currently call "viruses" has not been fully
- Could tiny submicroscopic forms of bacteria, virus-like
mycoplasma forms, and recently described "nanobacteria" be related
- retroviruses like HIV? At present, virologists and bacteriologists
are silent on this issue.
- AIDS and small bacteria ("mycoplasma') as a co-factor
- The origin of viruses is not known. However, it is clear
that virus- like mycoplasmas are related to the bacteria.
- In the late 1980s a new "virus" was detected
and reported from AIDS cases. However, on closer molecular study it was
determined that the "virus-like infectious agent" was actually
a small form of bacteria called Mycoplasma penetrans.
- The continuing research of Luc Montagnier, the co-discoverer
of HIV, indicates mycoplasma-type bacteria act as a co-factor with HIV
in the development of AIDS. In a New York Times interview, the Pasteur
scientist declared "AIDS is caused not by a virus alone, but by a
microbe and a virus working together." In laboratory tests he found
that a small bacterium-like organism called a mycoplasma when combined
with HIV could kill human cells in a way that HIV by itself cannot. ('Evidence
is said to increase on microbe's role in AIDS.' June 22, 1990.) According
to Times reporter Philip J Hilts, "If the theory is confirmed, it
would force a drastic re-evaluation of efforts to prevent and treat AIDS."
- In Virus  Montagnier writes that Mycoplasma penetrans
has the ability to penetrate a cell like a virus. "We do not yet
know whether M. penetrans is indeed the co-factor that explains the virulence
of HIV, but it does demonstrate the right characteristics: a weak presence
in the HIV-negative population, a strong prevalence in the HIV-positives.
And there may be still be other species of bacteria, as yet unidentified,
present in AIDS patients not infected with M. penetrans, which play an
analogous role to this mycoplasma."
- Acid-fast bacteria in AIDS and cancer
- HIV is a cancer-causing virus and HIV-positive people
are at increased risk for certain types of cancer, particularly lymphoma
and Kaposi's sarcoma. Therefore, AIDS must have some connection to cancer
and its origin.
- Most scientists currently believe some cancers are caused
by viruses. However, since the late nineteenth century there have been
reports indicating that bacteria not viruses- are the infectious
cause of cancer. In 1890 Scottish pathologist William Russell discovered
"the parasite of cancer" in all the cancers he examined. He
believed these parasites were the infectious cause of cancer.
- Pathologists now recognize Russell bodies in cancerous
tissue, although they are not considered as infectious bodies. Russell's
observations were condemned by his colleagues who did not consider
cancer an infectious disease, and who had no comprehension of large "pleomorphic"
forms of bacteria that "Russell bodies" most likely represent.
(For more details please see, "The Russell Body: The Forgotten Clue
To The Bacterial Cause Of Cancer" at http://www.rense.com/general44/russell.htm)
- The idea that cancer is caused by bacteria is generally
condemned in cancer circles. The reason for the antagonism towards the
cancer microbe theory of cancer is bizarre because there is much credible
research in this field and the theory has never been disproven. The recent
acceptance of bacteria as the cause of most stomach ulcers is a harsh
reminder that generations of scientists can fail to recognize bacteria
in serious and common diseases.
- It is not possible here to include all the evidence
pointing to bacteria in cancer and AIDS. Details of a century of cancer
microbe research are contained in my book: The Cancer Microbe: The Hidden
Killer in Cancer, AIDS, and Other Immune Diseases . Seven personal
papers showing microphotographs of cancer microbes in various diseases,
including AIDS, are posted on the www.joimr.org website.
- The leading proponents of the bacterial cause of cancer
in the twentieth century were a group of four women scientists: physician
Virginia Livingston, microbiologist Eleanor Alexander-Jackson, cell cytologist
Irene Diller, and world-famous biochemist and tuberculosis expert Florence
Seibert. I wrote about their remarkable collaboration in cancer microbe
research in Four Women Against Cancer; Bacteria, Cancer and the Origin
of Life . A wealth of information is also available on the Internet
by Googling: "cancer bacteria" and/or "cancer microbes."
- In 1950 Virginia Livingston was the first scientist
to recognize that the cancer microbe was a highly pleomorphic agent closely
related to the acid-fast mycobacteria that cause TB. The key to the detection
of the cancer microbe in culture and in cancerous tissue was her discovery
that the microbe stained "acid-fast" at some stage of its "life
cycle." She and her colleagues reported that the various pleomorphic
forms of the cancer bacterium were virus- like, mycoplasma-like and fungal-like.
- When AIDS first began, I was the first researcher to
suggest that acid-fast bacteria were a possible cause of "classic"
Kaposi's sarcoma. Before the discovery of HIV in 1984, Cantwell reported
that acid-fast bacteria could be found in the enlarged lymph nodes that
comprised the earliest stage of AIDS (so-called "AIDS- related complex"),
and also in AIDS-related Kaposi's sarcoma (the badly-titled "gay
cancer'), and in the AIDS-damaged organs at autopsy in a fatal case of
- This research was published in medical journals and summarized
in my 1984 book: AIDS: The Mystery and the Solution. However, all these
findings were inexplicably ignored by the AIDS experts.
- Figure 1 is a microscopic section of a Gram-stained
enlarged lymph node from an early case of AIDS. The pleomorphic forms
include large Russell bodies (RB) and small round coccoid forms (arrow).
Figure 2 is an acid-fast stained tissue section from AIDS-related Kaposi's
sarcoma showing many tiny granular and coccoid forms in the skin. Figure
3 is a color photo of an acid-fast stained tissue section from AIDS-related
Kaposi's sarcoma showing three areas of purple stained round coccoid
forms of bacteria in the skin tumor. Figure 4 shows three typical acid-fast
(red-stained) rod forms of Mycobacterium avium within the tissue section
of an "immunoblastic sarcoma" of the skin in a patient with
AIDS. The acid-fast stain is the stain used to demonstrate TB-like mycobacteria,
and is the key stain necessary to detect acid-fast bacteria in AIDS-damaged
tissue. All the photographs are taken at the highest magnification of
the light microscope (1000 times) and examined under oil immersion.
- The importance of the HIV blood test
- Despite the protestations of the AIDS Denialists, a "positive"
- HIV test is exceedingly important because it is a harbinger
of possible impending suppression of the immune system and opportunistic
infections that accompany full-blown AIDS. That is why it is necessary
to avoid sexual infection with HIV and to undergo HIV antibody testing
- When people are tested for HIV, they are not being tested
directly for the virus, but rather for antibodies against the virus. In
order for a lab blood test to be developed to test for HIV, it was necessary
to grow HIV in large quantity in the laboratory.
- How was HIV grown? How do we know the laboratory cultures
of HIV are "pure" virus? How can we be sure the HIV blood test
is a reaction solely against HIV? Could virus-like mycoplasmas have contaminated
the lab culture of HIV? Could HIV be a virus-like form of TB mycobacteria
and/or virus-like mycoplasmas? These are a few questions that concern
- Is HIV "a virus"?
- It is universally claimed that HIV is a virus, although
a few researchers have doubts. One of the reasons for doubt is the questionable
"purity" of HIV in culture. Unlike bacteria which can be grown
in artificial culture, viruses need to be grown in living cells. In 1984
HIV was finally isolated in cell culture with great difficulty and with
questionable techniques in Robert Gallo's lab.
- Pulitzer Prize-winning writer John Crewdson presents
a highly detailed and unflattering account of the discovery of HIV in
Science Fictions: A Scientific Mystery, A Massive Cover-Up, and the Dark
Legacy of Robert Gallo . He notes that Gallo's lab cultured HIV
by mixing the blood of an AIDS patient along with the blood of ten other
AIDS patients. This mix was seeded into a tissue cell culture comprised
of a white blood "cell line" derived from a patient with cancer
of the blood.
- Enough HIV was finally cultured from this witches' brew
to allow the manufacture of the HIV blood test developed by Gallo. Not
surprisingly, some researchers and AIDS Dissidents question the "purity"
of the HIV lab culture, as well as the accuracy of the blood test in
proving infection with HIV.
- Microbiologist Phyllis Evelyn Pease, in AIDS, Cancer
and Arthritis: A New Perspective , claims the pooling of virus
from multiple patients to grow HIV "could almost guarantee the isolation
of mycoplasmas." She is concerned that undetected mycoplasma could
be present in the cancerous cell line used to grow HIV, noting that mycoplasmas
"can still persist in a covert but viable form and thus are able
to cause further errors in areas of serology, biochemistry and molecular
- Traditionally "viruses" have been physically
separated from bacteria in the laboratory by the use of filters. With
proper size filters the smaller-sized viruses slip through the filter
leaving the larger bacteria behind. But, in reality, the dividing line
between bacteria and viruses is not so simple. Pease writes that "it
is now widely recognized that smaller elements of bacteria including mycoplasmas
are not excluded by filtration." She explains that "in the past
such filterable forms have been identified as viruses until they have
been recognized as bacteria, that is, mycoplasmas, by virtue of their
ability to grow in cell- free medium." In short, she suggests some
retroviruses like HIV might be "sub-cellular forms of bacteria."
- Lawrence Broxmeyer is a physician who believes TB-like
bacteria cause AIDS. In AIDS: What the Discoverers of HIV Never Admitted.
Is AIDS Really Caused by a Virus? , he searches the medical literature
and concludes that M. tuberculosis, perhaps in concert with other species
of acid-fast bacteria (such as M. avium), is the likely cause of AIDS
and the immune system abnormalities that accompany it. He suggests HIV
"is simply one of the L-forms (i.e. mycoplasma-like forms) of an
- The back cover of Broxmeyer's book proclaims: "Once
upon a time a small group of politically powerful scientists rammed a
flawed theory on the origin and cause of AIDS down America's and then
the world's throat. Yet we are still led to believe that we are fortunate
that retroviruses, only discovered in the 1970s, were uncovered just in
time to label them in a killer AIDS epidemic. Although it is currently
difficult to find anyone who openly questions HIV as the cause of AIDS,
a fast-growing number express their doubts privately." Broxmeyer
believes the prospects for a cure or an AIDS vaccine depend on the recognition
of TB bacteria as the underlying cause.
- Why are bacteria in AIDS important?
- The AIDS epidemic is a disaster for the human race. Twenty-five
million people have already died, including a half-million Americans.
Forty million are currently infected with HIV.
- There is no cure for AIDS and the current treatment is
so expensive that few people in the world can afford it without subsidies.
- AIDS is a billion dollar industry and billions have been
poured into AIDS research, all of it based on the simplistic belief that
the disease is caused solely by a virus. The role of bacteria in the
production of AIDS is largely ignored, even though Luc Montagnier (who
first discovered HIV at Pasteur) believes that mycoplasma are a necessary
co-factor for HIV to kill cells. Unfortunately, Montagnier seems to be
unaware of my published reports and books showing bacteria in AIDS-damaged
tissue; and my suggestion that that these bacteria represent cell wall
deficient and mycoplasma-like forms of bacteria related to acid-fast
- It is easier to develop treatments against bacteria than
it is for viruses. If TB-like bacteria are essential for HIV to lead to
AIDS then antibiotics and possibly vaccines might be developed to combat
these disease producing agents.
- Although acid-fast mycobacteria have been ignored as
AIDS and cancer-causing infectious agents, there is enough evidence in
the medical literature to warrant further investigation and recognition
of these bacteria as possible etiologic agents.
- Selected References:
- Alexander-Jackson E. A specific type of microorganism
isolated from animal and human cancer: Bacteriology of the organism. Growth
18: 37-51, 1954.
- Bermudez LE, Parker A, Goodman JR. Growth within macrophages
increases the efficiency of Mycobacterium avium in invading other macrophages
by a complement receptor-independent pathway.
- Infect Immun. 1997 May;65(5):1916-25.
- Broxmeyer L. Is AIDS really caused by a virus? Med Hypotheses.
- Cantwell AR Jr. Bacteriologic investigation and histologic
observations of variably acid-fast bacteria in three cases of Kaposi's
sarcoma. Growth 45: 79-89, 1981.
- Cantwell AR Jr, Lawson JW. Necroscopic findings of pleomorphic,
variably acid-fast bacteria in a fatal case of Kaposi's sarcoma. Journal
of Dermatologic Surgery and Oncology 11: 408-412, 1981.
- Cantwell AR Jr. Variably acid-fast bacteria in vivo
in a case of reactive lymph node hyperplasia occurring in a young male
homosexual. Growth 46: 331-336, 1982.
- Cantwell AR. Variably acid-fast cell wall-deficient bacteria
as a possible cause of dermatologic disease. In, Domingue GJ, editor.
Cell Wall Deficient Bacteria. Reading: Addison-Wesley Publishing Co;
1982. Pp. 321-360.
- Cantwell AR Jr. Kaposi's sarcoma and variably acid-fast
bacteria in vivo in two homosexual men. Cutis 32: 58-64,68, 1983.
- Cantwell AR Jr. Necroscopic findings of variably acid-fast
bacteria in a fatal case of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome and Kaposi's
sarcoma. Growth 47: 129-134, 1983.
- Cantwell AR Jr, Rowe L: African "eosinophilic bodies"
in vivo in two American men with Kaposi's sarcoma and AIDS. Journal of
Dermatologic Surgery and Oncology 11: 408-412, 1985.
- Cantwell AR Jr.Mycobacterium avium-intracellulare infection
and immunoblastic sarcoma in a fatal case of AIDS.
- Growth. 1986 Spring;50(1):32-40.
- Croxson TS, Ebanks D, Mildvan D.Atypical mycobacteria
and Kaposi's sarcoma in the same biopsy specimens. N Engl J Med. 1983
Jun 16;308 (24):1476.
- Diller IC, Diller WF. Intracellular acid-fast organisms
isolated from malignant tissues. Trans Am Micros Soc 84: 138-148, 1965.
- Lo SC, Shih JW, Newton PB 3rd, Wong DM, Hayes MM, Benish
JR, Wear DJ, Wang RY. Virus-like infectious agent (VLIA) is a novel pathogenic
mycoplasma: Mycoplasma incognitus.
- Logani S, Lucas DR, Cheng JD, Ioachim HL, Adsay NV. Spindle
cell tumors associated with mycobacteria in lymph nodes of HIV-positive
patients: 'Kaposi sarcoma with mycobacteria' and 'mycobacterial pseudotumor'.
Am J Surg Pathol. 1999 Jun;23(6):656-61.
- Montagnier L, Blanchard A. Mycoplasmas as cofactors in
infection due to the human immunodeficiency virus. Clin Infect Dis. 1993
Aug; 17 Suppl 1:S309-15.
- Pease P: Bacterial Origin of Certain Viruses: Identity
of the Eaton Agent with Streptococcus MG. Nature 197, 1132 (16 March 1963).
- Russell W. An address on a characteristic organism of
cancer. Br Med J. 1890; 2:1356-1360.
- Seibert FB, Feldmann FM, Davis RL, Richmond IS. Morphological,
biological, and immunological studies on isolates from tumors and leukemic
bloods. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 1970 Oct 30;174(2):690-728.
- Wuerthele-Caspe (Livingston) V, Alexander-Jackson E,
Anderson JA, et al. Cultural properties and pathogenicity of certain
microorganisms obtained from various proliferative and neoplastic diseases.
Am J Med Sci 220: 638-648, 1950.
- Zakowski P, Fligiel S, Berlin GW, Johnson L Jr. Disseminated
Mycobacterium avium-intracellulare infection in homosexual men dying
of acquired immunodeficiency. JAMA. 1982 Dec 10;248(22):2980-2.
- [Alan Cantwell M.D. is retired dermatologist. He is
the author of The Cancer Microbe: The Hidden Killer in Cancer, AIDS, and
Other Immune Diseases, and Four Women Against Cancer: Bacteria, Cancer
and the Origin of Life, both published by Aries Rising Press, PO Box
29532, Los Angeles, CA 90029 (www.ariesrisingpress.com). His books are
available from Amazon.com and via Book Clearing House at 1-800-431-1579.
- Email address: email@example.com
- Alan Cantwell M.D.
- FOUR WOMEN AGAINST CANCER:
- Bacteria, Cancer and the Origin of Life