Fruity viruses

One of the reasons I started writing ERV was to help demystify viruses for the general public. To Average Joes/Janes, viruses are scary-ass little buggars-- alien creatures that make you sick, kill you overnight in horrible scary ways, and you never see them coming.

I hope long-time readers of ERV are now aware that while some viruses are 'scary', the fact of the matter is, humans wouldnt exist without them. Hell, probably all life on Earth wouldnt exist without them. We can use them to study principles of evolution that would be impossible with other organisms. Theyve helped us learn about our immune system and how we can make better drugs and fight off non-viral diseases better. We can use viruses directly to treat cancer. We can use them to treat blindness, or fix other genetic abnormalities.

Viruses kinda kick ass!

Buuuuut most people arent long-time readers of ERV. So viruses are scary. And 'fear' makes a warm, snuggly nest for snake-oil salesmen. And I just found a good 'un!


This crap is so sleazy and so pseudo-sciencey and Im so offended, as a virologist, Im going to give this bastard an Orac-length smackdown.

What I love about kooks is how goddamn ignorant they are of the topic they present themselves as experts in. Like how HIV-1 Denier Rebecca Culshaw didnt know the difference between an endogenous and exogenous retrovirus. Or how Billy Dembski thinks he 'discovered' functional ERV fragments. Likewise, the dude who invented this crap supplement, Hanan Polansky, thinks he discovered something in 2003:

Also, our founder and lead scientist is Hanan Polansky (PhD), who discovered the relationship between chronic viruses and chronic diseases.

LOL, wut?

Um, Im not sure who, exactly, gets the honor of 'discovering' that chronic viruses can cause a chronic disease, but I think a front-runner might be Peyton Rous, who discovered Rous Sarcoma Virus (a retrovirus that causes cancer in chickens) in 1911. Pretty sure Hanan wasnt alive in 1911. Kinda got beaten to the punch there by, oh, a hundred years, dude. LOL!

So what is this douche-bag peddling? Apparently, Gene-Eden is supposed to be an antiviral supplement, especially for chronic viruses:

  • Hepatitis Virus (Hepatitis C Virus, Hep C, HCV, Hepatitis B Virus, Hep B, HBV, etc)
  • Human Papilloma Virus (HPV)
  • Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV)
  • Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV)
  • Cytomegalovirus (CMV)
  • Varicella Zoster Virus (VZV)

NEWSFLASH: Most of you reading this have at least 4/6 on that list. Pretty much everyone gets HPV, EBV, HSV-1, CMV, and VSV. HepC and B are rarer, but not exactly rare. So while all of these viruses are drastically different (a physician physically couldnt prescribe a drug to treat all of these viruses) Gene-Eden has conveniently opened their market to basically every person on the planet. Hanan even encourages people to go get tested for EBV and CMV, cause he knows they will be positive. WE ALL ARE.

I think its neat to note that Hanan is careful not to say that this supplement will 'cure' anything. Thats pretty clever for a snake-oil salesman, as theyll usually just say it, and wont take the statement down until the FDA forces them to. But he does do the usual shimmy-shake to avoid saying what this supplement is actually supposed to do, and how patients can tell if its working.

You have to be patient. It might take a few weeks until you start to see results. Unlike drugs, the changes with the supplement are gradual, and sometimes are easily missed. Only after awhile you will look back and discover that you actually feel better, and that the supplement actually worked.

... It depends on the efficiency of your immune system, and its ability to recover. It's hard to tell in advance. If your immune system recovers and becomes efficient enough in protecting your body against chronic viruses, than you will be able to stop using the supplement. After all, a strong immune system is able to control the chronic viruses and maintain their DNA at a very low concentration. In your case, we have to wait and see.

No idea when/how it works, and the usual snake-oil spin of 'If it doesnt work for you, theres something wrong with you.'

Hanan gives patients a clever way to tell if their immune system is bouncing back, thanks to his supplement:

Please remember that the antibody based tests are very slow to react. Sometimes you might need to wait a few months to see results with these tests. You will feel better much faster than you see results with the antibody tests. These tests are slow to show changes in the antibodies concentration since our body tends to keep the level of antibodies high even after the viral DNA is down.

Youre supposed to go get more antibody tests. ... Do you know what it means when you no longer have antibodies to viruses youve been exposed to? IT MEANS ALL YOUR MEMORY B-CELLS ARE DEAD. This is not a 'good thing' for any reason, EVER! You got chicken pox (VSV) when you were a little kid, but you still have antibodies to it, which is why you dont get chicken pox 6 times a year! Thus your antibody levels will never 'go down', so you 'need' to be on this supplement forever.

But I gotta hand it to Hanan. He has written, hands-down, the funniest shit I have read in a long time:

Think of the nucleus inside the cell as a field with many flowers. To bear fruit, the flowers need pollination by certain bees. Now think of a virus as another flower that migrated into the field. The viral flower also attracts the bees, however with much higher efficiency (stronger scent?). What happens to the production of fruit by the local flowers? It declines. And since many animals are dependent on this fruit, the entire ecosystem is affected. The "starved" human genes stop bearing their fruit, or proteins. They behave as if they've been mutated. (They were not, but to a puzzled scientist they look like they've been mutated!) And without the needed proteins, the cell stops functioning properly, a condition we call disease.

While hysterical, this is complete and utter bullshit. Lets say HIV-1 infects a cell, integrates into the genome, permanently. For all intents and purposes, youve added one viral gene (HIV-1 has one promoter) into a field of ~25,000 human genes. And technically, HIV-1 brings its own 'bee', tat. Transcription factors (not enough bees) are not a limiting reagent, here. I mean, some viruses purposefully down-regulate a few genes, cause they dont want to be 'found out' by the immune system... but they also try not to touch anything they dont have to adjust in their host cell, cause they dont want to be 'found out' by the immune system. Your immune system is like a gardener, making sure all the flowers are growing where they are supposed to. It pulls up infected flowers so they dont infect their neighbors. It pulls up weeds. Viruses want to look like everything else in the garden. There is simply no scientific basis for this stupid garden analogy.

Okay, enough about this douche-bag. Whats the deal with the supplement?

Gene-Eden is a 'science based' antiviral supplement. Its so super 'science based' they even encourage people to look up their research on PubMed!

As a proof to our scientific approach, just enter Gene-Eden into PUBMED, the database of scientific papers maintained by the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

Well, I did that. I got one paper:

Gene-Eden, a broad range, natural antiviral supplement, may shrink tumors and strengthen the immune system.

In all fairness to Gene-Eden, I didnt read this paper. I cant read this paper. Im at a major medical institution, and they dont have a subscription to this journal. But I can comment on the part of this article I can read: The Title.

"A broad range, natural antiviral supplement, may shrink tumors and strengthen the immune system" is a non-statement. While it contains words, it contains no information. Say you are driving home for your Moms birthday, and she says "Be careful on your way home! The weather is bad!" We all have a general idea of what 'the weather is bad' means, but it really doesnt contain any useful information. Is it 120 degrees outside, so you need to make sure your car is properly serviced and you have plenty of water? Does it mean there is a blizzard warning? Does it mean there is going to be dense fog? Lightning? Downpours? Hail? Hurricane? Tornadoes? Wind warning, and there are trees/power lines in the road?

If your mom said "The weather is going to be bad', you would ask her for more information.

Scientific article titles sum up the entire paper in one sentence. Rather than being devoid of information, they are information dense. You know exactly what you are going to get. Examples taken from todays search of 'HIV-1':

  • Purification of untagged HIV-1 reverse transcriptase by affinity chromatography.
  • Functional properties of the HIV-1 subtype C envelope glycoprotein associated with mother-to-child transmission.
  • Potent and broad neutralizing activity of a single chain antibody fragment against cell-free and cell-associated HIV-1.
  • In vitro resistance development for RO-0335, a novel diphenylether nonnucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor.

These are direct and to the point. No 'may shrink tumors and strengthen the immune system'. What tumors? 'Strengthen' what part of the immune system? Increase the titer of neutralizing antibodies towards influenza A? Upregulate some transcription factor, thereby upregulating an siRNA that effects dendritic cell maturation? What? 'Strengthen the immune system' doesnt mean anything to a scientist.

Its a non-phrase a non-scientist would use to impress other non-scientists.

Okay, whatever, bitching about a really really bad title might be pedantic. So whats in this super-science based antiviral supplement?

  • Camellia Sinensis Extract
  • Quercetin
  • Licorice Extract
  • Cinnamomum Extract
  • Selenium

WOW! This is super-scientific! I dont know any HIV-1 researcher who isnt intimately familiar with using licorice in the lab as anti-retrovirals. Pop a black Twizzler into your infections to get data for single-cycle replication *nods* Standard lab protocol.


Look, you can pop over to those ingredients Wikipedia page to see what this stuff might do in tissue culture and small animal models. There is no reason to supplement with any of this stuff in humans. Hell, the selenium one even says that people shouldnt use it as a supplement because of its association with diabetes. heh.

What else do they have to back up their 'science-based' claims?

Do you have any evidence that Gene Eden targets the hepatitis/EBV/HPV/CMV ... virus?

We have many customers with a chronic infection with these viruses who report positive results after taking Gene-Eden. Consider, for example, the customer reviews on the Amazon website.


Aaaaand like all good snake-oil, Gene-Eden can be used to treat everything. Not just 'chronic viruses', but also 'weight management' and swine flu and 'sleep disorders'.

*sigh* Like I said before, everyone is infected with these viruses. You already are. There is nothing you can do about it. Might as well make peace with this fact.

Sure, its scary to think that 20 years from now you will get some cancer from EBV, or you need a kidney transplant and CMV ramps up again making your life hell, or you know Hepatitis C is a ticking time-bomb in your liver. But if you really do have problems like these with one of these ubiquitous 'chronic' viruses, you dont need a supplement. You need to go to the doctor. We have ways of dealing with this stuff, and while it doesnt involve Twizzlers or flowers, these real treatments have a chance in hell of working.

More like this

Back in September, I merrily applied a little not-so-Respectful Insolence to the service of deconstructing the overwhelmingly silly fear mongering by a group known as SANE Vax over the alleged discovery of HPV DNA in the HPV vaccine. SANE Vax, as you may recall, is a group founded by a woman named…
Its no secret that Im not a huge fan of the antibody hunter branch of the HIV-1 research world-- they search through thousands and thousands and thousands of B-cells looking for one or two that can perform a neat trick. They are brilliant people working really hard doing things that have limited…
This idea... this idea might be absolute genius... Immunogenicity of bivalent human papillomavirus DNA vaccine using human endogenous retrovirus envelope-coated baculoviral vectors in mice and pigs. The 'best' vaccines are live attenuated vaccines.  Weakened/Misadapted viruses that can replicate a…
This study is a case study from this study (lol): Chimeric Antigen Receptor-Modified T Cells in Chronic Lymphoid Leukemia I imagined this scene happened in one of their lab meetings: I didnt go in-depth as to how everything was working before, so I thought I would do it now! This paper is a case…

But that lady has a white coat. And she's looking into a microscope. Deal with that!

I'm CMV negative, by the way. My local blood bank constantly harasses me as a result.

1 twizzler stick, cut up into 100 pieces
1 prescription bottle
1 sticker "solidified licorice extract, 20,000 units per piece, 30 day supply"
1 sheet of imaginary effects, including quack miranda warning
1 price tag "$20"

$19,50 PROFIT

I can access the article. But it isn't even really an article; it doesn't appear in any of the TOC's; instead its listed as "Published Online" letter to the editor. Makes one wonder exactly what kind of publication it is.

I'd send you the PDF, but I don't have any contact info for you. A brief synopsis is that this is a case study, of one patient (a 61 year old woman), with hepatic cancer. She went through an experimental cancer trial, experienced pretty bad depletion of hematopoietic cells, and then switched over to this "wonder drug" PLUS another cancer drug (capecitabine).

5 weeks after taking the "wonder drug" + capecitabine she had modest improvements in her WBC counts, and saw some regression of the tumour (35% reduction in volume). They then conclude their "wonder drug" likely caused the tumour regression as capecitabine only cures ~7% of hepatic tumors.

Of course, the woman was originally taking gemcitabine + oxaliplatin + erlotinib, and they ignore any effect these could have had. And the patient also was not cured - her tumour shrunk but was still present - meaning that their patient is exactly like 93% of patients on capecitabine - her cancer wasn't cured.

They conclude:
According to the Starved Gene discovery, latent viruses can cause pancreatic cancer, and an antiviral supplement that targets latent viruses can be effective in treating the disease. Gene-Eden is a promising broad range, natural antiviral supplement that targets latent viruses. The results of this study show that the addition of Gene-Eden to chemotherapy may have participated in shrinking the tumor and in strengthening the immune system in a case with poor prognosis. Such participation is consistent with the expected effects of Gene-Eden on pancreatic cancer according to the Starved Gene discovery.

Or, in other words, they gave their "magic drug", saw a modest improvement in immune cell numbers (which may simply have been due to switching anti-cancer drugs), saw a modest reduction in tumour volume that is typical of the anti-cancer drug the patient took alongside this "wonder drug", and therefore declared their "wonder drug" a cure for cancer.

Hey now, Mu! No cheating!

You need to dissolve the liquorice in alcohol. Dilute two drops in 198 drops of water. Shake magicallysuccuss. Repeat sixty times. Drip solution onto to sugar pills.

Homoeopathy is too reel zainze! Hard work. Very 'spensive. Special price for you my friend. Come upstairs? Bouncy bouncy?

My homeopathic remedy recipe is much easier. I sell empty dropper bottles with the instruction "just add water and shake for 5 min". All my case studies have shown the effect is indistinguishable from the real stuff.


Well, I'm convinced! Sample size of 1, conflating variables, sounds very scientific!

By Christina (not verified) on 15 Apr 2010 #permalink

BTW, ImagingGeek, the journal (Acta Ontologica) is legit, but the fact that the PubMed entry says "Correspondence" makes me wonder if was actually an article at all (since, like you said, it's listed as a letter to the editor). Talk about deceptive bullshit.

I also read the article. It's absolute horse shit and I'm appalled that any journal would publish it (even as a letter to the editor). Essentially it reports a single case where this Gene eden crap may have helped reduce a tumor (albeit in conjunction with chemotherapy...). There is absolutely no attempt at giving a mechanistic explanation for the actions of this Gene eden shit other than some vague hand waving.

Actually its a rather impressive example of citing studies that have absolutely nothing to do with the conclusion that one is attempting to make

It isn't an article. It isn't even in print. It's an "early online" submission. If I were you, I'd email the editorial board questioning why that is sitting there with all the legit submissions, because it can be easily gotten rid of before it goes any further.

By Luna_the_cat (not verified) on 15 Apr 2010 #permalink

So Gene Eden contains tea, more tea, licorice, cinnamon and a by-product of industrial smelting?

No wonder the candy store/copper miners of Ceylon are hepatitis free.

I probably shouldn't joke about that because Gene-Eden will be tempted to stick it in their sales literature as a testimonial.

I was surprised they didn't list magnesium stearate. Quacks love that stuff because although completely inert it is cheaper than potting soil and sounds so sciencey/mediciney.

What happens if you mix Gene-Eden with Crisler Cardiofuel? Do you turn into the hulk or what?

By Prometheus (not verified) on 15 Apr 2010 #permalink

I really love this part:

"Declaration of interest: The authors report no conflicts of interest. The authors alone are responsible for the content and writing of the paper."

But hmm... that website selling Gene-Eden seems to figure the name of the first author pretty prominently.

This is enough right here to get the paper shot out, and I've emailed the editorial board about it.

Apparently, as skeevy as the Gene-Edeners are, this wasn't entirely their fault. The editors added the statement to the original manuscript and asked the authors to accept the revised version. Acta Oncologica appears to be standing behind their decision to accept the manuscript.

I don't know whether you deserve a high five or a noogie for keeping that simile going as long as you did.

I'm another CMV negative donor. They like me at the donor facility.

By the way, since no one else has noted it: "Cinnamomum"? :)

By Aingon Atelia (not verified) on 17 Dec 2010 #permalink