Science

At Didier Raoult’s IHU, a Covid-19 cluster, many questions … and tensions

A dozen people were infected between mid-March and early April within the IHU Méditerranée Infection Marseille by Covid-19. A technician was placed in intensive care – he luckily survived – and a hospital medical practitioner was hospitalized. The case was hushed up internally, to the point that the seminars and bi-weekly meetings, during which the wearing of a mask and social distancing are little respected, have been maintained.

Frightened by this behavior contemptuous of the most elementary health rules and especially exasperated by the reverse discourse of science maintained for months by Prof. Raoult and his relatives, several people working at the IHU, at the hospital of Timone (AP-HM) or in direct contact with these establishments, have decided to testify to L’Express. They are all indignant at the passivity of the University Hospitals of Marseille (AP-HM) towards the director of the IHU, but also at the climate of fear that reigns at the IHU and the AP-HM. These various witnesses, whose identity L’Express was able to confirm, were also keen to speak anonymously in order to avoid reprisals which they consider certain.

“The technician, who was in serious condition, was on hydroxychloroquine-azithromycin”

“There have been at least six contaminations within our establishment, including a technician who was placed in intensive care at the Timone hospital – which is across from us – and a hospital practitioner (PH) in diseases infectious diseases who was hospitalized at the IHU “, confides a person working in the institute of Prof. Raoult. Two members of the Timone confirm these remarks. “The technician, who was in serious condition, was received in intensive care at the end of March, which suggests that the date of contamination is around the 20th. He was then on hydroxychloroquine-azithromycin, but this treatment was immediately stopped when “He was taken care of. He was not intubated, but received high flow oxygen. Fortunately, he did,” said one of them. These two witnesses also confirm that the hospital practitioner close to Didier Raoult was hospitalized at the end of March at the IHU, where he was also treated with the hydroxychloroquine-azithromycin combination. His condition was sufficiently worrying to receive a visit from doctors from the Timone, who placed him under Optiflow, a device delivering high flow oxygen. “He came close to resuscitation,” they say. His hospitalization continued until the end of April.

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Four other people, including two secretaries, two doctors and technicians, tested positive, without however developing serious forms of Covid-19. “All worked on the fourth floor, where there is an open space dedicated to doctors and technicians and a secretariat that communicates with Prof. Raoult’s office. This situation does not surprise me, since not only is there little , or even no window in the open spaces, but most of Didier Raoult’s relatives do not wear the mask, ”explains the IHU employee. Didier Raoult have he, too, been contaminated? If it is impossible for them to provide concrete proof, two people from the IHU claim to have a bundle of clues. “He was declared a contact case before his departure for Senegal, which did not prevent him from leaving [du 26 au 31 mars, NDLR]. He took an X test and when he came back, when there were already six positive cases upstairs, someone brought a positive X test. We are convinced that it was his, but he denied it, and as it is a test under X, there is no way to find it. “Contacted by L’Express, Yanis Roussel, in charge of the communication of the IHU Méditerranée Infection, refused to answer these accusations. “We have no reason to answer you”, estimates the close adviser of Didier Raoult, who does not hesitate on the other hand to brandish the threat of a complaint “if you post false information”.

Pr Didier Raoult and Pr Souleymane during a press conference in Dakar on March 31, 2021, during which he wears the mask correctly.

Pr Didier Raoult and Pr Souleymane during a press conference in Dakar on March 31, 2021, during which he wears the mask correctly.

SEYLLOU / AFP

“The worst thing is that Didier Raoult continued to organize and attend ‘staff meetings’, which take place every Tuesday between noon and two, and seminars open to outsiders, organized at the same time every Fridays, in the amphitheater of the IHU, where the barrier gestures are little or not respected, all this while the cluster was in progress “, continues an employee of the IHU. On April 16, Pr. Raoult, for example, invited some of his fans as well as Pr. Toussaint to a conference on the epidemiology of Covid-19 during which nearly half of the participants did not wear the mask and were less than two meters away, as L’Express had reported. These habits have not changed since, as evidenced by new videos and photos of a seminar organized on May 21 where neither Prof. Raoult nor his guest, self-proclaimed expert Jean-Dominique Michel – a strong supporter of hydroxychloroquine –, wore no mask.

Photo of the seminar organized in May 2021 at the amphitheater of the IHU in Marseille, in the presence of Didier Raoult and Jean-Dominique Michel.

Photo of the seminar organized in May 2021 at the amphitheater of the IHU in Marseille, in the presence of Didier Raoult and Jean-Dominique Michel.

The Express

The non-respect of sanitary standards, a habit “to please” the teacher?

There is nothing exceptional about the occurrence of a cluster within a hospital. On the other hand, the maintenance of a treatment protocol denounced by the vast majority of the scientific community is more astonishing. “Today, if you come to the IHU for a Covid-19, you will still be given hydroxychloroquine with azithromycin and zinc, testifies an internal source. Doctors who do not prescribe it are few because they fear that the internal software of the IHU – which allows the management to follow the prescriptions – will betray them … And those who really do not want to prescribe write false statements in this software, in order to to have peace “. Didier Raoult continues to promote his protocol as well in public that in private, as shown in an email dated March 10, 2021 that L’Express obtained. Asked by a surgeon on the interest of having a patient with a chronic infection with Coxiella burnetii – a bacterium – for which he is particularly treated in the long term with hydroxychloroquine (plaquenil), vaccinated against Covid-19, the Marseille professor replies that “the question of the Covid-19 vaccine does not arise”, since the patient is already on hydroxychloroquine, which is “probably largely sufficient” to protect him from Covid-19.

Extract from an email from Prof. Didier Raoult to a surgeon asking him whether to vaccinate a patient with a chronic infection for which he is particularly treated with hydroxychloroquine (plaquenil).

Extract from an email from Prof. Didier Raoult to a surgeon asking him whether to vaccinate a patient with a chronic infection for which he is particularly treated with hydroxychloroquine (plaquenil).

The Express

Even more problematic are the non-compliance with wearing a mask in open spaces as well as the holding of conferences and seminars when a cluster was known to management. Indeed, the hypothesis according to which other staff members would have been infected and developed asymptomatic forms following the cluster could not be ruled out in April. However, an employer is responsible for the health and safety of its employees (article L4121-1, 2 of the Labor Code) which implies, in particular, during a pandemic period, to impose the wearing of a mask in the workplace. . Why, then, have the meetings and seminars been kept without a mask, even if it means taking the risk of endangering the health of others? Again, Yanis Roussel refuses to answer.

“There is a whole section of the IHU that operates in a vacuum, with a leader who is never contradicted and who exercises real sway, who does not hesitate to crush and publicly despise those who are not. ‘Okay with him, says an employee of the IHU. He is undeniably intelligent and charismatic, but you have to see the mental strength he exerts on the staff and in particular on his inner circle. that he has been doing for years. If he says that the virus is transmitted mainly by the hands and that he does not wear the mask, everyone believes him and imitates him, for fear of offending him or by will to please him; if he has doubts about the vaccination, some refuse to be vaccinated, even make anti-ax comments, or are vaccinated in secret. ” This grip would nevertheless have been relaxed following the Covid-19 cluster. “This is the only benefit of this story” we whisper to the IHU. About fifteen close collaborators of Didier Raoult would have taken advantage of his absence in Senegal to be vaccinated.

“Everyone knows what’s going on at the IHU, but the AP-HM is doing nothing”

This deleterious atmosphere both on a human and professional level has already been reported during journalistic investigations or internal audits. But the cluster episode, it seems, was the last straw. “I am shocked at what is happening in front, notes a doctor from Timone. At the beginning, his wobbly studies on hydroxychloroquine could make you smile, but here we see dangerous behavior … And the PA -HM [qui salarie une partie du personnel de l’IHU, NDLR] does absolutely nothing against this situation while the whole credibility of the institution is called into question: it’s incredible. “Internally, the inaction of the AP-HM is also exasperating:” Everyone knows what is happening. it happens at the IHU: people who crack, go on sick leave, go to occupational medicine, but the AP-HM does nothing, while we are all employees and prisoners of this situation … All this is just a question of money in my opinion. “A reference to the fact that the IHU brings in more than 10 million euros per year to the AP-HM thanks to the establishment of a system allowing Didier Raoult and his relatives to massively publish studies in scientific journals directed by relatives.

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Didier Raoult was also able to count on numerous supporters, in the population and among politicians, from Renaud Muselier to Christian Estrosi and Philippe de Villiers, via Nicolas Sarkozy to Emmanuel Macron, who came to visit him on April 9 2020 in Marseille, before taking his distance a few months later. “I am under enormous political pressure to free up access to hydroxychloroquine for everyone, but I am resisting”, even wrote Jean-François Delfraissy, the president of the Scientific Council, to his American counterpart Anthony Fauci, in an enamel sent March 25, 2020, reports Buzzfeed. Many have defended him tirelessly for over a year, even when his predictions and analyzes have turned out to be wrong one after the other, even when he sowed discord in the scientific world by accusing his opponents of being “corrupt”, and still today, when he files a harassment complaint against Elisabeth Bik, a brilliant specialist in scientific integrity, who had the misfortune to ask him questions and details concerning about sixty errors or anomalies in IHU studies. Until when ?


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