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Evidence Disproves Theory Linking
OPV and HIV Epidemic in Africa

The Royal Society in London held a 2-day meeting on the origins of HIV and the AIDS epidemic on September 11 & 12, 2000. The meeting addressed the questions of when, how and why HIV was first introduced to humans. The evidence indicates that there is no link between OPV and HIV.

In his book "The River: A Journey to the Source of HIV and AIDS", Edward Hooper presented a theory that an experimental oral polio vaccine, given to children in central Africa was the sources of the AIDS epidemic*. Hooper hypothesized that the vaccine was grown on chimpanzee cells in spite of clear statements by the investigators and institutions who made the vaccine denying that any chimp cells were used. Many questions were raised by Hooper regarding the timing and location of the first cases of AIDS, suggesting that the vaccine could have been the sources of the epidemic.

Three independent labs selected by a committee of AIDS researchers tested samples of the original vaccines stored at the Wistar Institute in Philadelphia where the vaccine was developed. Dr. Claudio Basilico, of New York University Medical Center, coordinated the testing and reported that “there is nothing in the results from these tests to support the theory that HIV entered the human population during the late 1950s polio virus clinical trials in Africa.” The different tests performed at different laboratories did not find evidence of SIV or HIV in the samples. In addition, there was no trace of chimpanzee DNA in the vaccine samples.

Dr. Stanley Plotkin, one of the original investigators, went through a lengthy point by point review of Mr. Hooper's hypotheses and allegations, refuting each one with evidence from laboratory records, statements from individuals, and epidemiologic evidence.

New information generated by other researchers now indicates that the AIDS virus must have crossed species in the 1930's based upon calculations from a "molecular clock" generated from genetic sequencing of many HIV isolates. By the 1950's when the polio vaccine studies were done, there was already a broad diversity of HIV, indicating many years of replicating and transmission from human to human.

This information has also been published in the medical journal The Lancet in an article entitled "New data challenge OPV theory of AIDS origin" by Richard Horton. (Lancet 2000;356:1005).  [pdf - The Lancet is a subscription site.]

* The most likely source of transmission from chimpanzee to man was from hunters who harvested chimps for consumption.

originally posted September 20, 2000


This page was last updated on June 09, 2016

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