Given my longstanding interest in intestinal health and gut flora and their connection to “HIV/AIDS”, I was understandably excited when I received the news of Prof. Marco Ruggiero’s recent work involving GcMAF and a specially formulated probiotic yogurt. And as you might imagine I had lots of questions. Ruggiero and I exchanged a series of emails and what follows is the background on this line of research, in Ruggiero's own words and published with his permission.
We at QA expect readers to have additional questions. Although this is a moderated thread please post them and we will pass them on to Prof. Ruggiero. If we have a few glitches at first—this is something new we're trying, after all—be patient with us.—Tony Lance
We have been working on vitamin D and its receptor (vitamin D receptor, VDR) for many years, identifying the VDR gene profiles associated with a number of physiological and pathological conditions. Vitamin D, VDR and vitamin D binding protein are called “vitamin D axis”. (You can find our papers here.) Therefore, when Prof. Yamamoto in 2009 published his paper claiming that GcMAF [Gc protein-derived macrophage activating factor] eradicated HIV without antiretroviral therapy (ART), it was only natural for us to direct our attention to GcMAF because it belongs to the vitamin D axis in that GcMAF derives from vitamin D binding protein, also known as Gc-protein.
In addition to the basic science interest, we were also attracted by the possibility to demonstrate in the laboratory that the famous words of Prof. Montagnier—“…you will get rid of the virus in a few week if you have a good immune system”—were true. Not that we doubted his words, but we knew that his words were based upon his clinical observations and not on actual experiments performed in the laboratory. The rationale is simple: if GcMAF administration eradicates HIV infection as published by Prof. Yamamoto, since GcMAF is not an antiretroviral and it should do no harm to the virus, this demonstrates that an empowered immune system is able to eliminate HIV and prevent AIDS. This would in turn demonstrate that immunodeficiency is the cause of chronic HIV infection and not vice-versa. In addition, this approach, often referred to as “immunotherapy”, would shift the focus from the fight against the virus to the effort to re-establish, or empower, an immune system made deficient by a number of different causes, probably different for each individual.
I often use the following example from my previous experience in lung cancer research. Even though many lung cancer patients are heavy smokers, lung cancer occurs also in non-smokers. Imagine you are an oncologist dealing with lung cancer patients. It makes no sense and it is criminal to abstain from using available anti-cancer therapeutic strategies (surgery, radio- or chemotherapy) and instead have all the lung cancer patients attend courses or counseling to stop smoking. This is what happens with AIDS; instead of focusing on the real disease, immunodeficiency, they try to fight the virus that putatively causes it, paying the high price of severe side effects, among which is drug-induced immunodeficiency, while at the same time ignoring the immune system without trying to reinforce it.
Because of these considerations, we thought that immunotherapy with GcMAF would be a good object of study. There was also another consideration. AIDS diagnosis and the decision to initiate ART are based on CD4 cell count. Therefore, we reasoned, if we are able to keep them high, HIV+ people, in addition to staying healthy, will avoid prescription of ART and will not be classified as having AIDS.
We had just recently read a very interesting article by Reid et al. (quoted in our IAS2011 presentation) where he demonstrated that a probiotic yogurt was able to rise CD4 to an extent comparable to that of ART, obviously without side effects and practically at no cost. In fact, it was produced by local women in low-income communities in Tanzania. In other words, locally-produced probiotic yogurt produced the same effects of ART. Or, if you prefer, AIDS in Africa can be defeated at no cost and with no side effects.
Reid et al. did not provide a molecular mechanism underlying the observed effects on CD4 cell count. We thought that bacteria contained in their probiotic yogurt could have converted some Gc-protein that is present in low concentration in milk into active GcMAF. Thus, administration of Reid’s probiotic yogurt might have mimicked Yamamoto’s administration of GcMAF.
Based on these premises, we then studied a way to have certain strains of bacteria convert high concentration of Gc-protein into GcMAF and we developed MAF 3 14. This was not easy at all and the number 314 indicates the number of different combinations/experiments we had to perform before obtaining the right conditions. This is definitely not something that you could perform in your home kitchen! Then, we thought that it could have been cooler to call it 3 14 mimicking the p number.
We also took advantage of the deep knowledge of human anatomy and histology of Prof. Stefania Pacini who is professor of human anatomy at the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Firenze. In fact, she let us know that there was no need to inject MAF 3 14 (an impossible task) if we wished to stimulate the immune system. The existence of the mucosa-associated lymphoid tissue (MALT) that comprises macrophages is now widely recognized and activated macrophages can re-circulate between mucosas, blood, tissues, and back to mucosas. At this point the only remaining obstacle was the acid environment of the stomach that could have digested the GcMAF presented in MAF 3 14. This problem also was solved by Prof. Pacini’s knowledge of human anatomy. In fact, in the Waldeyer’s tonsilar ring there is an abundance of macrophages that can be directly stimulated by the GcMAF present in MAF 3 14. Not only that, we developed a way to have most MAF 3 14 pass intact the gastric environment and arrive intact (for the most part) in the lower intestine where the gut microbiota (now conceived as a virtual organ) exerts its actions.
In fact, MAF 3 14 is not only a GcMAF-enriched yogurt. Based on Reid’s publications and successes, MAF 3 14 was developed to re-establish a healthy gut microbiota, very similar to that of newborn mammals. A sort of reset of the gut microbiota. Again, this achievement was not easy. Please consider that we had to do more than two experiments a day in a fully equipped and well funded laboratory. We often worked 14 hours a day with a team of about 10 researchers; you can see some of them in the home page of www.marcoruggiero.org. Prof. Pacini is the third from the left, standing.
At that point, we began experimenting on ourselves as true scientists of the old days used to do. (I wonder how many advocates of ART have experienced those drugs on themselves.) You can see the results of this “trial” in IAS2011. Immediately thereafter, we gave MAF 3 14 to a couple of friends with different pathologic conditions and we are now monitoring their situation. By the way, MAF 3 14 has a good taste and people who tried it found it good. We are collecting a series of unexpected positive side-effects that we believe are due to the lucky combination of immune stimulation and re-establishment of a healthy gut microbiota. Many of these effects are just sensations difficult to quantify in scientific terms, but they are nevertheless very welcomed by those experiencing them.
I conclude, for the moment, letting you know that we are about to move to the U.S. to perform a larger scale trial. I cannot give at the moment more details about this. If everything works as we hope and believe, MAF 3 14 should be available for consumption in the coming weeks.—Prof. Marco Ruggiero