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14 September 2000
No AIDS-Related Viruses Found In 1950's Polio Vaccine
by George Atkinson

Tests performed by three independent laboratories on 1950s-era polio vaccine samples from The Wistar Institute, Philadelphia, PA, failed to find any traces of SIV, HIV-1, or DNA indicating that chimpanzee cells were used to prepare the vaccine, according to the scientist who coordinated the testing. Dr. Claudio Basilico, chairman of microbiology at New York University Medical Center and head of Wistar's external AIDS/Poliovirus Advisory Committee, announced the findings today at a Royal Society meeting in London entitled "Origins of HIV and the AIDS Epidemic."

Taken together, the findings provide strong evidence to refute the theory that an oral polio vaccine prepared at The Wistar Institute and administered to people in the then Belgian Congo in the late 1950s provided the route of transmission for HIV or HIV-related viruses from chimpanzees to humans, as has been proposed by Mr. Edward Hooper in his book The River (Little, Brown and Co., 1999).

A linchpin in Hooper's theory is the supposition that chimpanzee cells were used in the preparation of the vaccine. For this reason, it is significant that the tests identified DNA from only one species of primate - the Asian macaque monkey, not the chimpanzee - in the Wistar vaccine samples. The two former Wistar scientists who developed the vaccines, Dr. Hilary Koprowski and Dr. Stanley Plotkin, have long maintained that no chimpanzee cells were used in their preparation.

"There is nothing in the results from these tests to support the theory that HIV entered the human population during the late 1950s poliovirus clinical trials in Africa," Dr. Basilico says. "The different tests performed by the three independent laboratories did not find any evidence of SIV or HIV in the samples nor did they find chimpanzee DNA. In fact, the laboratories were able to determine that all of the Wistar samples were grown in monkey cell cultures rather than chimpanzee cell cultures."

"We want to thank Dr. Claudio Basilico and the Wistar external AIDS/Poliovirus Advisory Committee, as well as the laboratories who generously donated their resources to this project, for shepherding these tests through to a conclusion," says Dr. Clayton Buck, acting director of The Wistar Institute. "We trust that these results will put to rest any remaining concerns of a link between a Wistar-produced oral polio vaccine and AIDS. The findings should also serve to restore public confidence in the production and administration of vaccines and in the response of science to public inquiry."

For the tests, the Wistar samples were subdivided and coded by Dr. Vincent Racaniello, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York, NY. Sets of the samples were then delivered to the three independent laboratories who had agreed to perform the tests: Dr. Shirley Kwok, Roche Molecular Systems, Pleasanton, CA; Dr. Svante Paabo, Max Planck Institute, Leipzig, Germany; and Dr. Simon Wain-Hobson, Institut Pasteur, Paris, France. Dr. Kwok tested for the presence of SIV/HIV in the samples; Dr. Paabo tested for the presence and species origin of mitochondrial and nuclear DNA in the samples; and Dr. Wain-Hobson's laboratory performed both tests.

Additional sets of samples, including control samples, were prepared and coded by the Centers for Disease Control, Atlanta, GA, and delivered to the three testing laboratories. All codes were provided only to Dr. Basilico for later interpretation of the results.

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