AZT Causes Birth Defects, Cancer

Evidence mounts showing that AZT causes birth defects and cancer, yet HIV doctors worry more that the new evidence will discourage AZT consumption than they do about its grim consequences and obvious implications.

The New Scientist (June 26; newscientist.com) discussed the soon-to-be published findings of Stephane Blanche of Paris's Necker Hospital and a new report by Ofelina Olivero of the National Cancer Institute (Journal of AIDS 13: 1999).
Blanche examined the cases of about a thousand "HIV-positive" pregnant women who followed standard protocol by consuming AZT during pregnancy as a means of preventing the transmission of HIV infections to their infants. He found that eight of the resulting infants, though "HIV-negative," suffered from a neurodegenerative condition (which the article did not specify) that kills its victims in infancy, and which normally affects between just one-to-ten children per thousand.

Blanche traces the observed eight-to-80 times increased incidence of this disease to AZT's effect on mitochondria, "mini cells" within cells that produce ATP, the basic unit of all cellular energy. Scientific facts support his suspicion. AZT blocks all DNA replication, including mitochondrial DNA which must replicate along with the mitochondria to meet cellular energy needs. A study not cited by the New Scientist documents the resulting "mitochondrial myopathy" AZT consumption causes in mouse livers (Ozawa, Biochem. Biophys. Res. Commum. 176:1, 1991).

Olivero's study demonstrates how AZT blocks DNA replication -- by being incorporated into replicating DNA strands. In the many cells where this incorporation does block replication, not only will HIV fail to replicate (in the rare cell -- 1 in 10,000 -- that harbors HIV replication), but the host cell dies; and in cases where the incorporation fails to block replication, the resulting DNA strand now contains AZT rather than the DNA unit that AZT mimics. This represents a mutation that Olivero regards as possibly carcinogenic, increasing the chances of cancer.

Although reported as news, these studies merely restate what everybody has known all along about AZT-style drugs (nucleoside analogs) used to treat people who test "HIV positive." These drugs represent a broad class of pharmaceuticals used both to treat leukemia and organ transplant patients. Their utility in these capacities derives from their immune cell-killing capacity, which directly relieves leukemia (immune cell cancer) and causes general immune suppression that helps transplanted organs to "take." But in either case the patient suffers unwanted immune suppression.

Since these drugs cause immune suppression, they make illogical choices for treating or preventing immune suppression. And besides immune suppression, these drugs cause other AIDS-defining conditions because they kill digestive tract cells (causing wasting) and cells-within-cells mitochondria (causing dementia).

The carcinogenic phenomenon demonstrated by Olivero illustrates a paradox not just for using these agents to treat cancer (since they also cause cancer), but for treating AIDS, since some cancers qualify as AIDS-defining diseases.

Meanwhile scientists have yet to demonstrate any AIDS-causing capacity for HIV. The known immune-suppressing effects of these drugs, which make them useful in preventing organ recipients from rejecting their transplanted organs, presents a second paradox when physicians use them to treat people who test "HIV-positive." Such physicians assume (incorrectly) that these tests indicate actual HIV infections, and further assume (also incorrectly) that these infections cause immune-cell death, resulting in the immune suppression observed as AIDS. They prescribe these drugs because they halt HIV replication, forgetting (or ignoring) that these drugs by definition (and unlike HIV) kill immune cells, and thus really do cause immune suppression (also unlike HIV).

The New Scientist makes sure to declare that the new evidence of AZT toxicity should discourage no one from consuming these drugs. "Most specialists stress that, on balance, they would still urge pregnant women with HIV to take [these] drugs to minimize the chance of their babies being infected by the virus. Indeed, as New Scientist went to press, medical authorities in France and the US were preparing statements on Blanche's findings which are expected to stress the benefits of using the drugs."