Severino Antinori, the maverick Italian fertility doctor who recently announced that one of his patients was pregnant with a clone, announced on an Italian chat show last week that two more women were also carrying clones.
Antinori offered no details to support his claims that the three women were in their ninth, seventh and sixth weeks of pregnancy, respectively. He then went on to say that he was not involved in the pregnancies, but was aware of them because of contact with other doctors. He said 'today we have three pregnancies in progress in the world. Obviously, I'm not implicated in any way. Two in the former Soviet states and one in an Islamic country'. He claimed also that eight cloned embryos exist in China, but have yet to be implanted. His claim appears to be in direct contradiction to the announcement of the original clone pregnancy, in which Antinori claimed 'a patient' on one of his treatment programmes was pregnant.
Scientists have responded to Antinori's claims with scepticism and condemnation. Panos Zavos, former partner of the Italian doctor, has claimed that he has severed links with Antinori, saying he has 'no clones, no laboratory, no patients and no doctors to help him'. Zavos also wants to clone humans but says he will perfect animal cloning techniques before attempting to do so.
Ian Wilmut, a scientist from Scotland's Roslin Institute, which cloned Dolly the sheep, doubted Antinori's claims when they were first made. Now, he has published findings that suggest that any work on human cloning is not only unlikely, but is likely to be dangerous if attempted. He says that a review of cloned animals around the world shows that they are all genetically or physically defective, adding that 'the widespread problems associated with clones has led to questions as to whether any clone was entirely normal'.