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Egyptian army's AIDS-cure claim gets harsh criticism

By Salma Abdelaziz and Saad Abedine, CNN
updated 8:06 PM EST, Thu February 27, 2014
Egypt's army claims it has invented a cure for AIDS and hepatitis C.
Egypt's army claims it has invented a cure for AIDS and hepatitis C.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Army official says the device cures the ailments in as little as 16 hours
  • Scathing criticism erupts shortly after the declaration
  • Scientists say the announcement will further damage the nation's image

(CNN) -- Egypt's army claims it has invented a cure for AIDS and hepatitis C, prompting an outcry from the medical community, which blasted the declaration as a "scientific scandal."

"I defeated AIDS with the grace of my God at the rate of 100% . And I defeated hepatitis C," said Maj. Gen. Ibrahim Abdel-Atti, head of the Cancer Treatment and Screening center.

Scathing criticism erupted shortly after the announcement Sunday.

Medical researchers led the condemnation, expressing concerns that the announcement would further damage the nation's image.

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"I want to be clear and explicit, what has been said and published about the invention of the armed forces hurts the image of scientists and science in Egypt," Essam Heggy, the scientific adviser to the President, told the private Al Watan newspaper Tuesday.

He called the declaration a "scientific scandal" for the nation.

The so-called "Complete Cure Device" draws blood from a patient, breaks down the disease and returns the purified blood back to the body, according to Dr. Ihsan Hanfy Hussein, a member of Abdel-Atti's research team.

She said it cures the ailments in as little as 16 hours.

"I will take the AIDS from the patient and I will nourish the patient on the AIDS treatment. I will give it to him like a skewer of Kofta to nourish him," Abdel-Atti said, referring to a dish made of ground meat.

"I will take it away from him as a disease and give it back to him in the form of a cure," he said. "This is the greatest form of scientific breakthrough."

He paid tribute to the military chief and unofficial presidential hopeful, Field Marshal Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, who attended the unveiling of the "miracle" device registered under the armed forces and approved by the country's Ministry of Health.

Egypt contains the highest prevalence of hepatitis C worldwide, with at least 10% of the population suffering from the disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Dr. Gamal Shiha, a leading liver specialist and member of a team evaluating a controversial device developed by Egypt's military for detecting hepatitis C without drawing blood from a patient, said the announcement shocked him and his colleagues.

"What has been said is not scientifically disciplined. There is nothing published, and there is nothing in medical conferences, and there is no single eminent professor around the project," Shiha told CNN. "Nothing scientifically relevant has been said."

After the military led the ouster of President Mohamed Morsy last year, a cult-like loyalty to the country's army and its chief, El-Sisi, triggered a new era of repression that has claimed hundreds of lives, suppressed organized opposition, and jailed journalists and activists, according to human rights groups.

Against a backdrop of fear, scientific justification appears secondary to some.

"The interim president should fire the scientific adviser, Essam Heggy, after his offensive comments to Egypt and the army," Mohammed Abu Hamed, an Egyptian politician and vice chairman of the Free Egyptians Party, tweeted Wednesday.

Pro-military journalists and media outlets urged Egyptians to rejoice after the army announced the invention will be available in June.

"Has the level of doubt reached such a high level on an international breakthrough? This will benefit all of humanity and solve a crisis that the medical community has not been able to fix for years. This is something we should celebrate," Maha Salim, a state media reporter, said on private network Tahrir TV.

The lack of skepticism inside the restive country will do little to shield it from a medical community demanding evidence and answers.

"Until we see the results of all phases of clinical research, we as academics cannot accept to hear this, " Shiha said. "The place of scientific facts is in published papers and journals, not in press conferences."

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