Monday, February 27

Researchers' possible link to malariotherapy scrutinized

The UCLA Office for Protection of Research Subjects is
investigating the possible connection of two UCLA researchers with
controversial malariotherapy HIV research being conducted in China
by the Heimlich Institute. Steven Peckman, associate director of
Human Research Subjects for the OPRS at UCLA, received an anonymous
e-mail in early October of this year requesting an inquiry as to
whether or not Drs. John Fahey and Najib Aziz of the UCLA AIDS
Institute were involved in researching malariotherapy ““ which
involves the injection of human HIV patients with a curable form of
malaria. A UCLA statement released Wednesday said Fahey “did
not collaborate on the malaria studies” and that “any
claims of association with UCLA are inaccurate.” The
Institutional Review Board of the UCLA OPRS is responsible for
reviewing all research protocol and allegations involving the use
of human and animal subjects, according to Peckman.
“It’s not a concern of ours whether it’s
threatening to (UCLA’s reputation) or not,” Peckman
said. “The charge of our office is to ensure the rights and
welfare of our subjects in research.” The Institutional
Review Board of the OPRS has been reviewing the allegations since
October and is expected to be completed within the next three to
four weeks, Peckman said. Malariotherapy treatment has been
discouraged by the Center for Disease Control and the World Health
Organization. The CDC issued a public health warning against
malariotherapy for HIV treatment in April 1993. According to the
fall 1999 issue of “Caring World,” the Heimlich
Institute’s online fundraising newsletter, Fahey requested to
join the Heimlich Institute, a non-profit organization based in
Cincinnati, Ohio, in its malariotherapy experiments in 1996.
“UCLA intends to ask Dr. (Henry J.) Heimlich to omit UCLA
from all references relating to the malaria studies or other
Heimlich Institute research,” according to the UCLA
statement. The Heimlich Institute refused to comment. In December
1999, Dr. Xiao Ping Chen published a medical paper titled
“Phase-1 Studies of Malariotherapy for HIV Infection”
in the Chinese Medical Sciences Journal. The paper, which was
co-authored by Heimlich, president of the Heimlich Institute,
states that “levels of soluble immune factors in serum …
were measured by ELISA (enzyme linked immunosorbant assay) in the
University of California at Los Angeles, U.S.A.” The paper
also acknowledged Fahey “for providing a part of financial
support, suggestions, and comments.” According to the UCLA
statement, Fahey and Aziz “helped to train Dr. Chen Xiao Ping
of the People’s Republic of China … on how to conduct and
evaluate AIDS research studies,” and that this “was
performed under the auspices of the UCLA/Fogarty AIDS International
Training and Research Program.” “Dr. Fahey was not a
co-author and did not collaborate on the malaria studies,”
the statement said. Chen, who is in China, was not available for
comment. The Fogarty program offers a three-month visiting-scholars
course to select researchers from leading AIDS control programs and
universities in developing countries. The goal for the program is
to train these scientists in AIDS research so they can help control
the epidemic when they return home. The Heimlich Institute’s
newsletter also stated Fahey visited Chen and malariotherapy
patients in China in the late 1990s. However, a standard part of
the UCLA/Fogarty program is to follow-up in the scholars’ own
countries, according to a second UCLA statement released

Malariotherapy background

Heimlich, founder of the famed Heimlich Maneuver, proposed
malariotherapy as a treatment for HIV in the early ’90s. He
claimed high fevers induced by malaria could restore and stimulate
the weakened immune system of a patient with HIV. HIV cannot be
directly combated with drugs that intend to prevent viral
reproduction due to the virus’ mutable nature. Malariotherapy
suggests an indirect means of treatment through the increased
production of immune cells stimulated by the malaria virus.
Following Heimlich’s propositions, experiments have been
carried out on human subjects in China. HIV patients are injected
with a curable form of malaria, resulting in fevers of over 100
degrees for three weeks before the malaria is cured. However, the
IRB approval that Heimlich obtained for these experiments was
questioned by the Food and Drug Administration. The Heimlich
Institute first received IRB approval from the Great Lakes College
of Clinical Medicine for its experiments. In March 2000, the FDA
issued a warning letter to the GLCCM for IRB procedural failures
and prohibited the institution’s IRB from approving new
studies. GLCCM ceased operation in March 2001. However, the
institute’s Web site still states that approval has been
obtained for its malariotherapy experiments. Heimlich has actively
fundraised and promoted his research and affiliation to UCLA
through his “Caring World” newsletter and in an
interview in the United States, but his research has been conducted
outside U.S. borders. The Heimlich Institute Web site states that
“the U.S. is not a suitable country for malariotherapy
studies at this time because malaria is not readily
available.” According to an article in the L.A. Times in
October 1994, Heimlich also promoted malariotherapy in the 1980s as
a treatment for Lyme disease, an arthritis-like disorder caused by
a tick bite. American patients with Lyme disease were brought to
Mexico to receive malariotherapy treatment, the article says.
Patients were injected with malaria-infected blood and experienced
high fevers and the symptoms of malaria. No information on the
benefits of malariotherapy for Lyme disease can currently be found
on The Heimlich Institute Web site. Malariotherapy was used in the
United States from 1931 to 1965 for the treatment of neurosyphilis,
a form of syphilis which attacks the brain. Drugs or
antibiotics were ineffective toward neurosyphilis because of the
“blood-brain barrier” that prevented medication from
reaching the brain tissue. This treatment was discontinued in 1975
in the United States with the introduction of more effective
antibiotics and the near eradication of the disease.

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