VITAMIN C - THE MASTER NUTRIENT
Preface | Foreword | Introduction | Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Chapter 7 | Chapter 8 | Chapter 9 | Chapter 10 | Chapter 11 | Chapter 12 | Chapter 13 | Bibliography
Vitamin C and Metabolites Kill the Aids Virus
Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) has become like the ultimate Frankenstein horror story – and the entire world is "freaked out". Prior to AIDS, cancer was, and still is, to a large extent, a subject most avoided and THE dreaded disease. AIDS, in a period of less than one decade, in addition to claiming the lives of tens of thousands of sufferers internationally, has managed to radically alter social practises and attitudes to sex and relationships, virtually reinstate non-promiscuity and fidelity, as well as promote the widespread use of condoms to the extent that "rubbers" or "sheaths" are now available in vending machines in ladies' as well as mens' toilets. Such is the terror of AIDS that presently over 32 countries have drafted laws requiring long-term visitors to their country to produce recent evidence of not being infected with HIV, the Human Immunodeficiency Virus.
AIDS is the result of an immune system devastated by HIV and presumably other co-factors, which leaves the individual vulnerable to potentially fatal attack even by normally innocuous agents. And as the person's immune system gradually weakens, so does his or her resistance to disease. AIDS is insidious – since the very cells which are designed to protect one from disease are those which are targetted for destruction by HIV, the virus which has been implicated as being a major factor in AIDS.
Everything about AIDS is controversial – the hypothesized origins of AIDS, the causative organism(s), the drugs and treatments being developed, the methods of testing these treatments, the widespread consumer-driven force to use alternative AIDS treatments, the social attitudes to HIV-infected persons, even institutional attitudes of giant insurance companies to AIDS patients (147). And the waste and horror of AIDS is becoming indelibly inscribed upon our consciousness as increasing numbers of friends, relatives and acquaintances are touched by this latter-day 20th century plague.
The battles rage amongst the scientific and medical "experts" about every aspect of AIDS, even whether HIV is the cause, or merely a co-factor of AIDS. The medical establishment sees infection with HIV as leading eventually and irrevocably to death, whereas "alternative" practitioners (including many MDs) report of individuals who have seemingly "beaten" the virus and are healthy, even 8-10 years after infection. Even amidst suffering and death, sagas of immeasurable spiritual insight and growth within AIDS victims and their caretakers abound. And despite the billions of dollars being expended upon AIDS research, the eventual control of the worldwide AIDS epidemic will, in this author's opinion, be more the combined result of sensible lifestyle changes and natural evolutionary factors in the virulence of HIV than any glorious technological marvels. Not to dispute that an effective vaccine would also be invaluable.
As usual, Vitamin C is right in the thick of these battles. Considerable persistence and effort was required before the research described in this chapter documenting Vitamin C's inhibition of HIV was accepted for publication by a scholarly scientific journal. The field of AIDS research is a highly charged political arena, with scientific reputations, budgets, and potential Nobel prizes at stake. Billions are being spent in the academic and corporate sectors on the development of drugs and vaccines against AIDS.
Several years ago, physicians Drs. Robert Cathcart(47-8) of the US and Ian Brighthope(35) of Australia, reported the CLINICALLY effective use of Vitamin C in treating AIDS patients, who were staying alive twice as long and suffering many less infections and symptoms of AIDS. The report that a natural, inexpensive and unpatentable substance such as Vitamin C could be highly potent and effective against AIDS may represent a threat as well as an embarrassment to the drug companies, who may suffer considerable financial losses with failure and/or toxicity of their own drugs.
The research reported here for the first time ever outside of the scientific journals, performed at the Linus Pauling Institute, had the "blessing" and cooperation of one of the scientific "pioneers" of AIDS research, Dr. Robert Gallo, who supplied the first batches of chronically infected cell lines used. In addition, the research received the enthusiastic support of Dr. Michael McGrath of San Francisco General Hospital who provided another batch of the same chronically infected cell line. Identical results were obtained by the Pauling Institute investigators with both batches of cells. The molecular biology experiments described here, elegantly and rigorously show that Vitamin C, in the test tube, inhibits HIV reverse transcriptase (RT) activity by over 99%(97). Clinical experience with hundreds of AIDS patients with Vitamin C also strongly suggests the power of Vitamin C's potential therapeutic effect upon this disease; what follows from here is in the hands of clinicians, politicians and patients.
Vitamin C/AIDS Research from the Linus Pauling Institute
The following research was conducted by Drs. S. Harakeh and R. J. Jariwalla and published in 1990(97). Principal investigator Dr. Jariwalla, currently Director of the Viral Carcinogenesis and Immunodeficiency Program at the Linus Pauling Institute, received his doctorate in Virology at the Medical College of Wisconsin and did postdoctoral training in basic cancer research at Johns Hopkins University. Dr. Jariwalla and colleagues are credited with the discovery of cancer-inducing elements from herpes and other viruses. Dr. Jariwalla directs projects related to mechanisms of cancer induction as well as nutritionally related investigations including the potential role of Vitamin C in AIDS(117) and plant-derived phytate in cancer and atherogenes.
Vitamin C Significantly Inhibits HIV Reverse Transcriptase Activity
The AIDS virus is called a 'retrovirus', because it's genetic material is composed of RNA which gets copied into DNA. When HIV gets into a cell, it has to "reverse" copy its RNA back into DNA in order for it to function and replicate within the host cell. To accomplish this, HIV is equipped with an enzyme called, logically enough, "reverse transcriptase" (RT). One of the parameters molecular biologists use to assess HIV replication or infectivity is to measure HIV RT activity. In one of the experiments used, a chronically HIV-infected cell line was cultured either with or without the addition of varying levels of Vitamin C (0-150ug/ml), and the level of RT activity determined at differing time periods (0-4 days). In control cells not treated with Vitamin C, the level of RT activity started to rise on day 2, reaching a peak on day 4. In sharp contrast, infected cells treated with Vitamin C showed markedly inhibited RT activity. By day 2, RT activity was inhibited by more than 90% at Vitamin C concentrations greater than 100 ug/ml; by day 4, at 150 ug/ml Vitamin C, RT activity was inhibited by greater than 99%(97) ! Control experiments had previously determined that cell viability was normal at these Vitamin C concentrations, ie that Vitamin C itself was not toxic to these cells. In addition it was shown that at concentrations at which ascorbate inhibited HIV RT, no adverse effects were seen on host metabolic activity and rate of protein synthesis(97).
Vitamin C Inhibits Expression of HIV p24 Antigen
When the HIV virus infects a cell, it "highjacks" the cell's protein-manufacturing apparatus to start churning out its own (HIV's) proteins. Another indication, in addition to RT activity described above, used by scientists to assess HIV infection, is the expression of p24 antigen, one of the virus' core proteins. Again, as with the previously described experiment, control cells not treated with Vitamin C showed an increase in p24 levels on day 2, reaching a peak on day 4. And, again, in sharp contrast to control cell culture and those treated with Vitamin C, p24 levels were inhibited by almost 90%(97). Since control experiments conducted determined that cellular metabolic activity and protein synthesis were not affected in the presence of Vitamin C (97), the observed suppression of RT and p24 must be due to inhibition of a specific step or steps in HIV replication.
Vitamin C Inhibits Syncytia Formation
A third assay of HIV infectivity involves the monitoring of giant, multi-cell complex formations, called syncytia. These syncytia are formed due to the interaction of HIV cell glycoprotein with receptors on the surface of T4 cells. In non-Vitamin C treated cells, syncytia became visible by day 4, reaching a peak on day 6. In contrast, in Vitamin C treated cells, syncytia were inhibited by 93.3% on day 4(97). These data are summarized in Table 1.
Table 1. Inhibition of HIV Activity by Vitamin C*
Parameter Assessed Degree of Inhibition Attained (%)
Reverse Transcriptase (RT) Activity 99
p24 Antigen Expression 90
Syncytia Formation 93.3
*These data were reported in S. Harakeh and R.J. Jariwalla, 1990 97
Mechanisms of Vitamin C's Inhibition of HIV
Does Vitamin C act DIRECTLY upon HIV, or is there some indirect process of inactivation? Experiments conducted to address this question determined that Vitamin C does NOT directly inactivate the virus nor prevent infection of cells; however, the inhibition of HIV by Vitamin C was due to Vitamin C's action upon the virus, not upon other cellular processes. Since Vitamin C does not, by itself, directly inhibit RT activity or processes involved in syncytium formation, the reduction of these viral parameters "therefore represents inhibition of a step of steps in HIV replication......delayed inactivating effect on the virion-associated enzyme was seen upon prolonged incubation of cell-free virus with ascorbate. This may reflect the accumulation to threshold levels of some reactive metabolite of ascorbic acid....upon prolonged in vitro exposure, virion components may become susceptible to further attack by metabolites of ascorbate generated from its oxidative degradation"(97).
The actual mechanism reponsible for Vitamin C's anti-HIV properties is not currently known. Further research is continuing to unravel the molecular action of ascorbate on HIV.
Preliminary Clinical Evidence of Vitamin C's Efficacy for AIDS
Dr. Robert Cathcart has treated hundreds of AIDS patients using large doses (oral and intravenous) of Vitamin C. In Dr. Cathcart's words "Ascorbate, by making short work of colds and other minor infections, and by reducing the duration and complications of major infections, reduces the activation of T-helper cells and thereby slows the multiplication of viruses"(48). Dr. Ian Brighthope, also successfully using Vitamin C to treat AIDS, finds that Vitamin C ameliorates depressed mental states as well as the bacterial and viral infections associated with AIDS(35). The results of Drs. Harakeh and Jariwalla(97), demonstrating HIV suppression by ascorbate in vitro, provide support for a third possibility i.e. that Vitamin C may directly block HIV replication occurring in infected cells.
Attempts to conduct controlled clinical trials of Vitamin C have been frustrated by the refusal of granting agencies to fund such necessary research. Dr. Brighthope writes that his application to the Research Grants' Division of the Commonwealth Department of Health was refused "on the grounds that there was no evidence that Vitamin C had any effect on the course of the disease". Attitudes of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the MRC in the UK convey similar conservative and intransigent views; the positive therapeutic effect (albeit anecdotal) of non-toxic Vitamin C in the treatment of AIDS certainly represents a major step forward and offers advantages over currently available AZT, which, being a potent inhibitor of DNA replication in NORMAL cells, is highly toxic, and only inhibits new HIV infection.
The inability to obtain funding to conduct clinical trials for natural medicines treating AIDS is widespread, and has been reported by many researchers, including this author, working with a variety of substances. To the author's knowledge, the only clinical trial being conducted today with Vitamin C on AIDS is a PRIVATELY funded trial coordinated by Dr. Russell Jaffe, formerly a senior researcher and clinician at the NIH, presently Director of Serammune Physicians Lab in Vienna, Virginia.
The publication of the research reported herewith in a major scientific journal probably heralds concrete evidence of the beginning of the winds of change in research attitudes. It is likely now, with such rigorous laboratory evidence of Vitamin C's potent anti-HIV activity, that clinical research will blossom, taking Vitamin C out of the realm of "fringe" medicine and into the mainstream worlds of nutritional and consumer medicine. Vitamin C became a respectable field of research long ago; it is long overdue for the medical and research establishments to acknowledge and support further progress toward our collective improved health.