This morning, the Egyptian State Information Service has issued a press release announcing that President Adly Mansour and Field Marshal Abdel Fattah el-Sisi have been presented with the “first system for discovering and treating Hepatitis and AIDS patients.”
This is despite the device bearing an uncanny resemblance to the fake bomb detectors that were sold to the Iraqi security forces for millions of pounds by a British business man. James McCormick was jailed for ten years and the judge told him he had ‘blood on his hands’ as unsuspecting people would have been relying on the device to find concealed explosives. The device is based on a novelty golf ball detector sold as a joke gift item. I have held one of these bomb detectors in my hands – and indeed, it feels like a comedy Christmas cracker toy. How it managed to fool anyone is beyond me.
However, the joke toy has re-emerged as a medical diagnostic device for serious disease. The press release states,
The Armed Forces personnel achieved a scientific breakthrough by inventing systems for diagnosing Hepatitis and AIDS without any need to take a sample of blood from the patient. The invention was registered in the name of the Engineering corps of the Armed Forces and was authorized by the Ministry of Health.
The associated patent gives light on how this device is supposed to work. It is pure pseudoscience. It tell us that each molecule has a “MOLECULAR SIGNATURE” which the device can hold an imprint of. This is meaningless nonsense. Given that the device I saw, had no obvious power, the patent tells us that the device is powered by ‘static energy resulting from the human body’. Again, nonsense.
Earlier in the year, the Guardian published a credulous article about this breakthrough. it has now been amended after the bleedin’ obvious was pointed out to them and several rebutalls have since been published. Suzi Gage noted its similarity to a divining rod – with similar prospects of success. Sile Lane of Sense about Science said that this device ‘offered hope and nothing more’. That is, false hope.
The blogger Pepijn van Erp has written about this extensively and spotted this latest development.
Just as the fake bomb detector killed people by promising to be able to detect bombs when it could not, this device will kill people by promising it can detect and treat people with life threatening disease. This is homeopathic science. Obvious nonsense. Unlike most quackery I write about, there are going to be people in this story who are quite aware that what they are doing is dishonest. The Egyptian government should, as a matter of urgency, submit this device to independent expert review. To people who are not associated with its invention or who will profit from its success or failure. And arrests made where appropriate. Thousands of lives depend on this and it is best done now before people die and politicians are put into more humiliating positions. The British government failed to do this, resulting in scores of deaths. One might hope the Egyptian government can learn from this and do better.
Update Feb 24 PM
Well that was quick. The Egyptian president has ordered an immediate review. Well done to all those who have flagged this up and written/tweeted etc.
Presidential Scientific Adviser Essam Heggy has stressed necessity that Egyptian scientific institutions stick to international standards of scientific research, publishing and production ahead of declaring results reached.
Heggy posted on Facebook saying that President Adly Mansour ordered having the results reviewed by specialized scientific committees and then communicate with scientific research centers and institutions at the world’s capitals to ensure the results are correct.
Military Spokesperson Ahmed Mohamed Ali earlier announced that armed forces came up to new results related to discovering infection with AIDS and Hepatitis C virus.
Meanwhile, Abdel Hamid Abaza, deputy health minister, told the state-run TV that the C-Fast apparatus, produced by the armed forces’ engineering authority is the first of its kind in the world to detect Hep C, adding that it’s considered a historic turn in the way of diagnosing and treating the virus in Egypt and the whole world. He explained that the study revealed its accuracy ranged between 98-100 percent.
Depending on the new system, according to Abaza, will save hundreds of millions of pounds for Egypt, that are paid for importing chemical substances used for analyzing the virus.