By Julie Beal
The no-virus theory was proposed by Stefan Lanka in the late 1990s, riding hot on the heels of his new-found fame as an AIDS dissident. Lanka, a marine biologist, first became interested in the HIV controversy after an Austrian professor called Fritz Pohl told him, “the official version of HIV and AIDS did not ‘add up.'”
After doing some independent research, Lanka decided it would be a good idea to deny the existence of all viruses, rather than just HIV. “It became clear to me,” he said, “that if I only criticised the postulate of a single virus and did not mention the rest, I was reinforcing the virus theory. And if I did not challenge the conceptual framework from which that theory springs, I was reinforcing it. (Translated from German, this quote is taken from an interview with Lanka in 2021.)
In a 1998 interview with Zenger’s magazine, Lanka explained that he had a series of realisations which led him to conclude the arguments being applied to HIV could be extended to other viruses as well:
“… for a long time I studied virology, from the end to the beginning, from the beginning to the end, to be absolutely sure that there was no such thing as HIV. And it was easy for me to be sure about this because I realized that the whole group of viruses to which HIV is said to belong, the retroviruses – as well as other viruses which are claimed to be very dangerous – in fact do not exist at all.”
On the other hand, he still wasn’t sure about the cause of disease:
“… I couldn’t say what was making people sick. Sure, I could talk about mass drug poisonings and things like that but a lot of symptoms were unexplained. It was a complicated time but I gradually realised that – as had happened with HIV – isolating a viral structure misinterpreted the death of the cell tissue in the test tube as evidence of the presence of a pathogenic virus in it and then built up the chain of viral genetic material. I have seen this approach in other viruses.”
“I had an answer to many of the doubts I had about science. For many years I was able to say ‘No, there is no such thing as a pathogenic virus. It is wrong. Immunology is wrong. Genetics has been disproved’ …… But I didn’t know what disease was. For 5 years I couldn’t answer the question ‘What is disease?’ And when I met Hamer I finally found the answer.”
Hamer established the German New Medicine group, and he explained to Lanka that disease is a result of shock or trauma, and that life develops from tissues, and not, as other scientists believe, from cells. He helped him to see that, “organs, such as the skin or brain, are not structured in a cellular way,” even though they appear to be, and what scientists are actually seeing is a kind of mirage (artefact) created by the microscope and the tissue-stains they use. Having been enlightened by Hamer, Lanka then realised that Virchow, who said “all diseases involve changes in normal cells,” was in fact wrong, and Harold Hillman was right. (Hillman believed that cell components, such as ribosomes and the Golgi body, do not exist in nature, and are produced as artefacts when electron microscopes are used.)
Talking to Hamer also helped Lanka understand where virologists were going wrong:
“Dr. Hamer’s system of knowledge in itself refutes Virology as a whole. Once I understood his theory, the veracity of which anyone can check with themselves, I knew that it was impossible for a virus to assault my body. Do viruses exist? No. Simply because they cannot exist. You look at what virologists publish and you realise that they refute themselves.”
It wasn’t long till Lanka found people willing to support him. In an interview about HIV in 2001, Lanka called for a “March through the Institutions” to pressure political and scientific leaders to tell the truth about HIV, and he teamed up with Karl Krafeld to initiate this crusade. An article called “Dr. Stefan Lanka Exposes The ‘Viral Fraud'” said he’d been unable to find any evidence of a virus and so,
“…he encouraged people not to BELIEVE him but to ask the institutes and authorities themselves. This has actually taken place, mostly initiated by mothers. The responses were revealing. In September 2001 the German book “Impfen – Völkermord im dritten Jahrtausend?” (Vaccination – Genocide in the third millennium?) by Stefan Lanka and Karl Krafeld was published in which they state that there is still no proof of any (medically relevant) virus.”
A movement called “klein klein aktion” (small small actions) was started with the claim,
“For almost one year we have been asking authorities, politicians and medical institutes after the scientific evidence for the existence of such viruses that are said to cause disease and therefore require ‘immunization.’ After almost one year we have not received even one concrete answer which provides evidence for the existence of those ‘vaccination viruses.'”
Journalist Torsten Engelbrecht and David Crowe (president of Rethinking AIDS) seemed to be following the “klein klein aktion” plan when, in 2005, they started asking for evidence that confirmed the existence of the H5N1 bird flu virus, and evidence that it was as pathogenic as had been claimed. They weren’t satisfied with the replies they received, and concluded they were unable to “accept” that the virus in question was “pure and fully characterized.” They suggested an alleged case of H5N1 could have been caused by something else because, “coronaviruses, flaviviruses, enteroviruses, other pathogens and chemicals can also cause flu symptoms.”
Engelbrecht also got stuck into the AIDS debate in 2005 by contacting media outlets around the world and asking them to provide evidence for their claims about HIV (that it exists, and that it causes AIDS, etc.) but, “not one media outlet could deliver one single proof for one of these claims.” Like Lanka, Engelbrecht insisted that researchers should be able to prove all claims about HIV, “in [the] form of a single study.” In 2007, Engelbrecht published a book called Virus Mania, which he co-authored with Claus Köhnlein, and the idea that (some) viruses might not exist became even more popular. A revised version of Virus Mania, published in 2020, extended the “never been isolated” claim to the rona,[i] and was supported by the release of a similar book by Dr. Tom Cowan and Sally Fallon Morell (The Contagion Myth: Why Viruses (including “Coronavirus”) Are Not the Cause of Disease). In this book, Cowan and Fallon Morell pay homage to Stefan Lanka, saying his work, “helped cut through the veils behind which the field of virology is shrouded.” They describe his work as being “careful” and “elegant,” and assert he did isolation correctly whilst virologists do not.
How Lanka came to be known as a “virologist”
Whilst studying for a PhD in marine biology in the early 1990s, Lanka was involved in the isolation and purification of a phage-type virus from a species of algae that grows in the sea. A handful of articles concerning this discovery were published, some of them in the journal ‘Virology’.[ii] After completing his PhD in 1994, Lanka immediately got involved in the HIV=AIDS debate by claiming HIV had never been properly isolated. When he later described how he came to this conclusion, Lanka said, “… I went to the library to look up the literature on HIV. To my big surprise, I found that when they are speaking about HIV they are not speaking about a virus. They are speaking about cellular characteristics and activities of cells under very special conditions.”
Several articles attributed to Lanka were published in the AIDS dissident magazine ‘Continuum’ in the late 1990s, but some of them don’t sound like him at all. The first article was translated from German to English, so it may have been edited during the process. Published in the April/May edition of Continuum in 1995, “HIV; Reality or Artefact?” echoed the ideas of the Perth Group, led by Dr Eleni Papadopulos-Eleopulos.[iii] The Perth Group had published an article in Nature in 1993[iv] in which they argued that HIV had not been properly isolated or purified, and that antibody tests might be detecting “normal cellular proteins” rather than a virus.
“HIV, Reality or Artefact?” was heavily criticized by Steven B Harris MD and a lengthy reply to Harris was published in the June/July edition of Continuum. This article was also attributed to Stefan Lanka, but it was written in English, rather than being translated from German, and it’s difficult to see how anyone speaking English as a second language could have written it. This is how the article begins:
“Dr Steven B Harris will no doubt consider it an impertinence even to respond to his ‘rebuttal’ of the thesis I put forward in my article on HIV in the capacity of a ‘purported’ virologist, striking as it does at the very bedrock of his credo. I console myself that while I make no claims to infallibility, I have no doubt that I am a virologist, moreover, one motivated by altruism, and untroubled by any worries that I may have dispatched any friend or patient to an entirely unnecessary and painful death, through craven obeisance to an ill-thought out medical theory concocted by a French mediocrity who, right from the start, doubted the validity of a virus-only theory of AIDS causation and only last week unleashed a new wave of doubt; and an American scientific gangster who had committed so many crass, self-aggrandizing blunders in the previous decade, that only a knave would trust him to tell the time correctly. Nor would I have forgotten the First Commandment of my profession; primum non nocere.”
Most people who are fluent in English would struggle to understand what “craven obeisance” means, and few would describe anyone as a “knave.”
The article also has a very distinctive style of writing – jocular, highbrow, and slightly antiquated:
“Please, Dr Harris, spare me! So poor Robert Gallo had problems, did he?… It must be obvious to a blind man with a stick by now, that Gallo has never done anything right in his life…. And you have the nerve to bother people with some problem he may have had cooking the books. What an insult of an answer waffling on about cross-reacting sera. If one does not know the answer to a problem, the correct intellectual position is to say, ‘I don’t know.’ No-one is required to adjudge a technical problem on a highly specialised subject not in his field. ‘Flu vaccines, hepatitis B and malaria (which you may have heard of) all cross-react with HIV tests. What does a horse virus nobody has heard of and cares about less, have to do with price of tea in China?”
These are very confident claims for someone who is freshly qualified as a marine biologist, and whose only experience of virology is with one type of plant virus. Apparently, in addition to what he found out from visiting the library, Lanka learned about HIV during long phone calls with the leader of the Perth Group – according to Anthony Brink, “Stefan Lanka was taught his ‘HIV’ biology by Eleni Papadopulos-Eleopulos (over so many lengthy telephone calls to her that their combined cost, she said, must have been enough to ‘bankrupt Deutsche Bank’).”
In the meantime, Continuum magazine had been promising a cash prize[v] to anyone who could find the ‘‘missing virus’’ by proving that HIV had been correctly isolated and Peter Duesberg, probably the most famous AIDS dissident, attempted to claim the reward. His claim was refused, and in response Continuum published two noteworthy articles in the September/October (1996) edition of the magazine. One was a long treatise by the Perth Group, reiterating their assertion that HIV had not been isolated, and the other (“Collective Fallacy“)[vi] was again attributed to Lanka, this time as a rebuttal of Duesberg’s claim that HIV had been proven to exist.[vii] A second “reply to Duesberg” was published in 1997.[viii] Both of these articles displayed the same prosaic style, and the same command of English, as the “rejoinder” to Harris, mentioned above.[ix]
By this point, Lanka was listed as a virologist on the Board of Consultants for Continuum. In fact, he was even described as a “Leading German Virologist” in 1996, just one year after finishing his PhD in marine biology.
1996 was also the year in which Duesberg published his book, Inventing the AIDS Virus, with a foreword by Karey Mullis. In this book, Duesberg laid out his thesis as to why he thought HIV was a harmless passenger virus, i.e. he thought it did exist and could infect other people, but wasn’t causing AIDS. The debate amongst dissidents then became polarized between Duesberg and the Perth Group, but it got a bit more complicated when Etienne de Harven came on the scene. Along with Lanka, the Perth Group, and the publishers of Continuum, de Harven said HIV had not been correctly isolated. In 1998, he published “The Recollections of an Electron Microscopist,” asserting it should be possible to “easily recover” a retrovirus directly from a patient and take pictures of it with an electron microscope, just like he’d done with animal retroviruses. Eventually, de Harven proposed HIV could be a human (endogenous) retrovirus or HERV.[x] These are retroviral elements that are part of the human genome, and de Harven thought they could explain the sequences being found in PCR tests. He gave a presentation at the Rethinking AIDS conference in 2009 entitled ‘Questioning the Existence of HIV’, and he suggested his HERV theory could “restore RA’s scientific credibility,” and help them to “consolidate a united front.”
The Perth Group weren’t happy with his “unnecessary hypotheses” and felt the Rethinking AIDS group were going “behind [their] backs” and freezing them out.[xi] In 2009, they announced: “Due to irreconcilable scientific and ethical differences we disassociate ourselves from the Rethinking AIDS Group.” They were later featured in a documentary called House of Numbers, explaining their criticisms about the way HIV was isolated.[xii]
Another documentary favouring the views of the Perth Group was released in 2011 by Joan Shenton. This film (Positively False – Birth of a Heresy) was originally commissioned by a TV company in the UK in the mid-1990s when Shenton told them she intended to prove HIV does not exist in three ways: 1) getting Lanka to demonstrate “how a real virus is isolated,” 2) showing that antibody tests give false positive results, and 3) proving Lanka’s prediction that, whether or not they test positive for HIV antibodies, anyone could test positive for HIV with the PCR test because the sequences it was detecting were natural, endogenous sequences that manifest when cells are under “extreme stress.” The TV company canned the documentary idea and planned to show a ten-minute report for World AIDS Day (1998) instead, but this plan was scrapped one day before the report was due to be aired. Shenton finished making the documentary herself over the following years, but in the end, there was no mention of Lanka or the “endogenous sequences” theory.
Courting the Phantom Virus
The only AIDS dissident who said viruses did not exist at all was Stefan Lanka. But one thing all the dissidents had in common was refuting the official line that HIV was the cause of AIDS. This is because scientists had tried their best to find a “cancer virus” as a way to explain the newly-defined “AIDS” syndrome, and then (hey presto!) … they found one. It was therefore natural to argue other things could have caused the alleged disease, and to question whether or not it ever was a distinct, definable syndrome. Eventually, this endeavour became the key feature of the dissidents’ research, as well as arguing about whether or not the virus existed. Perhaps, once you’ve discounted the disease, it’s but a short step to discount the virus, too, and then after that it’s just one more step to infer the same is true for other alleged outbreaks.
One of the first AIDS dissidents to take this step was Peter Duesberg. Although he believed in the existence of HIV, he did raise doubts about other viruses. In his 1996 book, Inventing the AIDS Virus, Duesberg asserted that HIV is a harmless “passenger virus,” and is therefore real, but he did question the existence of the Hepatitis C virus. Like HIV, it failed Koch’s Postulates, and there were other ways to explain the disease it was linked to. Moreover, he maintained, “this supposed hepatitis virus has never been found intact.” He also referred to it as being “hypothetical” for a number of reasons: it was barely detectable, not everyone had antibodies, life expectancy didn’t decrease, and chimps didn’t get ill from it. Duesberg also said a company called Chiron had created a test by reconstructing, “pieces of the mystery virus.” Furthermore, he highlighted other examples of over-eager virus hunters, each of whom were chasing “phantom viruses.” Without actually saying certain viruses don’t exist, he certainly implied it.
Lanka then published a short article in Continuum which was essentially a synopsis of Duesberg’s chapter on Hepatitis C, although it didn’t mention him. He also pressed on with his klein klein aktion movement, gaining lots of followers, and was further aided by de Harven’s tacit approval of the movement when he wrote the foreword to Virus Mania.
De Harven’s Influence
Etienne de Harven was a pathologist/electron microscopist who came on the scene in 1998 and seems to have had a significant influence on other AIDS dissidents (e.g. Alexander Russell and Torsten Engelbrecht). Like the Perth Group, de Harven asserted that HIV had not been correctly isolated (as compared to the method he used to isolate animal retroviruses). His main stipulation was that scientists should be able to prove the existence of HIV by producing electron microscope images of it, just like he had done with two leukaemia-causing retroviruses. Based on experiments he’d done in the 1960s and ’70s, he also said retroviral particles should all be the same size and virologists should be able to find particles in somebody’s blood and take pictures of them with an electron micrograph.
By 2002, the reward offered by Continuum for proof of the isolation of HIV had been increased to $100,000 by Alexander Russell (“writer/artist/philosopher”). Claims would only be considered if they used the de Harven methodology. Russell wrote a number of responses to the BMJ in the early 2000s asserting, for example, that he expected to see “visual evidence; i.e. in a published electronmicrograph, of massed, densely packed purified ‘HIV’ particles (isolated from all other contaminants) found in a fresh blood sample.” One of Russell’s letters to the BMJ had Lanka’s name added to it, and again stipulated the de Harven method of isolation must be used – the virus must come from a sample of blood, could not involve the use of “cultured cells”, and must follow very precise instructions for how the sample should be treated before being photographed.
As described earlier, Engelbrecht got involved in the HIV=AIDS debate in 2005, as well as the klein klein aktion movement (by requesting proof of H5N1 with David Crowe). So from the early 2000s onwards, there was a simmering undertone of “maybe we should question other viruses too.” The success of Virus Mania made this all the more acceptable. This book had a foreword by de Harven and his influence can be seen throughout. The authors restate de Harven’s claims about retroviruses, based on the work he’d done decades previously. Like de Harven, they thought viruses should be “well characterized by electron microscopy,” and briefly suggested some viruses might actually be human endogenous retroviruses, or HERVs.
No mention of Stefan Lanka is made in Virus Mania, but it’s peppered with his ideas and idiosyncratic turns of phrase, underlined in this quote: “… it’s as easy as taking a sample of patient blood and isolating one of these viruses, in a purified form with its complete genetic material (genome) and virus shell, directly from it, and then imaging it with an electron microscope.”
They also alleged, as Lanka does for all viruses, that images of the H5N1 virus were nothing more than “completely normal cellular components that had been artificially produced in a test-tube (which is easily recognizable to any molecular biologist). The layperson can verify this by requesting a specialist peer reviewed publication in which H5N1 is illustrated and described in all the glory of its genetic information…”
Stefan Lanka often says anyone can verify the truth for themselves, talks about viruses containing “genetic material” and describes them as having a “shell.” For instance, in a 2005 interview, he said he’d written to the WHO and others asking for proof of the existence of H5N1, and asserted,
“…influenza viruses are, as every molecular-biologist can see, artificially produced particles consisting of fats and proteins. The layman can check on this by asking for a scientific publication in which these pictures are reproduced and described and the composition of the formations shown is documented. Such a publication does not exist.”
Also, rather than saying “genetically sequenced,” Lanka says viruses should be “biochemically characterized” to really prove they exist. This is a term that’s normally used in microbiology when characterizing bacteria, etc. but it crops up in Virus Mania a few times. For example, when speaking about images of poliovirus, the authors say they should have been “purified, isolated, imaged with an electron microscope and precisely biochemically characterized.” Like Lanka, they also suggest that readers contact the Robert Koch Institute themselves to ask for “indisputable” proof about the existence of HIV, SARS, and other viruses. Also like Lanka, the authors claim viruses can be created by mistreating cell cultures: “…the particles termed viruses stem from cell cultures (in vitro) whose particles could be genetically degenerate because they have been bombarded with chemical additives like growth factors or strongly oxidizing substances.”
Unlike Lanka, however, the authors restrict their speculations to specific viruses (the ones alleged to have caused various over-hyped and highly dubious outbreaks), and they don’t deny the existence of viruses entirely. This is an important point, because it’s what distinguishes Virus Mania from The Contagion Myth – this book heavily promotes Lanka’s theories and boldly states, “… bacteria and viruses don’t cause disease, at least not in any way that we currently understand.” Like Lanka, they claim virologists “starve and poison” cell cultures so they can pretend they’ve made viruses. They even go so far as to claim that animals are injected with “unpurified, lung-cancer-grown, centrifuged snot” along with staining products (which are actually used for doing microscopy). The Contagion Myth also includes quotes from a popular article by Engelbrecht and Demeter (“Covid-19 PCR Tests are Scientifically Meaningless“), which claims the rona has never been “properly” isolated.
Widespread acceptance of the no-virus theory
The no-virus theory became popular with anti-vaxxers, naturopaths, and people sceptical of media-hyped outbreaks. It got a lot of publicity when Lanka said he’d “won” his measles challenge in court, and it was also kept alive by the Rethinking AIDS group; for example, David Crowe gave a talk for their 2018 conference in which he suggested viruses may not exist at all because there were other ways to explain the cause of disease. Crowe had been running a website called “The Infectious Myth” since around 2010. He also wrote an article in 2014 called, “Why I think viruses might not exist,” in which he claimed virologists add “a number of stimulating and toxic chemicals” to cell cultures during isolation experiments. He interviewed Lanka in 2016, and in 2020 Crowe joined fellow Rethinking AIDS members David Rasnick and Joan Shenton in saying the rona hadn’t been isolated and therefore did not exist. The theory was then popularized by doctors Kaufman, Cowan, and Bailey, all of whom joined the movement when the ronascam first began.
Ironically, although Virus Mania merely suggests that some viruses may not exist, the book’s most famous proponent, Dr Sam Bailey, strongly supports Lanka and regularly asserts that viruses don’t exist at all, and never cause disease – ever. What makes this even more ironic is that one of the authors of Virus Mania (Claus Köhnlein) does believe in viruses and thinks SARS-CoV-2 is real. In an interview he did in 2021, he said, “I believe that viruses are existing”, that covid was a relatively harmless disease, like flu, and that he wasn’t worried about his parents’ getting ill because they probably have natural immunity to it. In addition, De Harven (who wrote the foreword to the book) also believed viruses are real; for instance, in 2012, he defended the field of virology, describing it as being “as solid as bacteriology,” and emphasising, “Nobody with understanding of microbiology has the slightest doubt on the existence of vaccinia, herpes, adeno, etc, etc…..Virology is not a ‘theory’…”
Unfortunately, Etienne De Harven died in 2019, as did Karey Mullis and Roberto Giraldo, followed by David Crowe in 2020, and Luc Montagnier in 2022. These people made important contributions to our understanding of virology in general, and they warned us that a virus, or the threat of a virus, can become a tool for politicians and pharmaceutical companies, especially when the media is complicit. It might also be said they provided the perfect cover for experiments with lab-made viruses, because they made people think there was nothing to look for.
[i] As argued in a previous article, there are two key problems with contacting institutions who are in possession of an isolate and asking them for evidence of purification: 1) the challengers’ definition of isolation/purification is unattainable, and, 2) the institutions may not have performed the isolation themselves (isolates are distributed to other researchers so they can add them to a cell culture and make more of the same kind of virus, a bit like you do with a sourdough starter for making bread).
[ii] These articles are cited as being by ‘Lanka et al’ because it is standard practice to name the PhD student first, and the lead investigator last (e.g. “Genome Structure of a Virus Infecting the Marine Brown Alga Ectocarpus siliculosus,” by Lanka, Klein, Ramsperger, Müller, and Knippers).
[iii] She’s the lady in the House of Numbers documentary!
[iv] “Is a Positive Western Blot Proof of HIV Infection?” by Papadopulos-Eleopulos et al, 1993.
[v] As noted by Duesberg, the prize had been increased to £10,000 by a researcher called Alex Russell, with another £25,000 promised by James Whitehead from the International AIDS Freedom Network.
[vi] Continuum magazine, September/October 1996, “Collective Fallacy; Rethinking HIV” (“Dr Stefan Lanka responds to Prof Peter Duesberg on the topic of HIV isolation”).
[vii] Duesberg said he was responding to “the Papadopulos-Lanka challenge.” He argued, “molecular cloning of infectious HIV DNA exceeds the criteria of the old ‘Pasteur rules.'” He also defended the reliability of HIV antibody tests.
[viii] From the second “reply to Duesberg:” “The clarification of the question whether “HIV” exists… is a sine qua non for dismantling the mass-delusional trance called ‘AIDS’.”
[ix] Duesberg criticized Lanka’s contribution to the alternative AIDS conference in Colombia in 1997, saying, “A negative highlight, in my opinion, was that Stefan Lanka from Germany was there to defend the idea that HIV doesn’t exist at all, or its existence has not been proved. Frankly, I think he did a very poor job on that. It was almost embarrassing, in my opinion, to have him there. Eleni [Papadopulos-Eleopulos] didn’t come, unfortunately — or fortunately, I don’t know which you would call it. If she had come, then at least there would have been a debate.”
[x] Human Endogenous Retroviruses (HERVs) have been extensively studied over the last 10-20 years. They make up about 8% of the human genome and they’re comprised of genetic sequences which have a low level of similarity to the sequences attributed to HIV. Only one type of HERV has retained the ability to produce all the proteins coded for by its genes; it’s called HERV-K, its genetic sequences are well known, and its unable to replicate. Some genes in other HERVs also remain biologically active, producing proteins which, “may in fact serve a useful role for the host either by preventing new retroviral infection or by adopting a physiological role. Syncytin, an Env-derived protein that mediates cell-cell fusion during human placenta formation, provides a striking example of the latter.”
[xi] Another issue was that Anthony Brink/the Perth Group blamed David Crowe for a number of things, e.g. interfering in the Parenzee trial. They also felt the Rethinking AIDS group favoured Duesberg too much.
[xii] All of the Perth Group’s analysis relates to HIV, and, like most AIDS dissidents, they relied on virological standards, norms and methodologies to support their claims. However, Dr Cowan, one of the authors of The Contagion Myth, recently claimed they’d said pathogenic viruses do not exist (in general). He also slated Peter Duesberg for saying HIV was real. “He was no hero,” said Cowan, adding that Duesberg, “waylaid our movement,”[xii] as if everybody else was on board with the no-virus theory.
Read much more about the science behind the coronavirus injections at Julie Beal’s archive.
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