OPV AIDS hypothesis

From Academic Kids

According to the oral polio vaccine (OPV) AIDS hypothesis, the AIDS pandemic originated from live polio vaccines prepared in chimpanzee tissue cultures (at least some of which were almost certainly contaminated with chimpanzee SIV) which were administered to up to one million African "volunteers" in the 1957-1960 period. The specific populations where the vaccine was given were the first in the world to experience HIV-1 infections and AIDS some five to twenty years later.

In particular, the CHAT experimental oral vaccine is claimed to have been contaminated with simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV), a group of viruses endemic to African primates and widely accepted as the origin of HIV. Recent evidence shows that CHAT may have been concentrated in African facilities using tissue cultures made from chimpanzee kidneys (more importantly, utilizing chimpanzee serum, containing macrophages, the target of immunodefficiency viruses).

Proponents of the OPV AIDS hypothesis include Edward Hooper, Louis Pascal and the late W.D. Hamilton.

The alternative, generally accepted natural transfer hypothesis holds that AIDS was accidentally spread to humans due to the African practice of hunting and eating chimpanzee.



Vaccines are weakened, attenuated versions of pathogens intended to provoke an immune response but not to cause disease. Many vaccines are grown in tissue cultures to increase the concentration of the pathogen and modify its properties. In the 1950s, when the OPV was created, there were no rules about which species to use. Chimpanzee kidneys, in particular, were marked as good cultures for growing poliovirus. Vaccines may be "live" or "killed". Live vaccines contain living pathogens and are more potent than killed vaccines. They provoke a stronger, lasting immune response and usually only one dose is required. However, they are unstable and may be contaminated with unwanted pathogens. In the 1950s, it was common practice to locally amplify oral vaccines, because the concentration of the vaccine changed unpredictably during transport. Although killed polio vaccines had been used with much success, no country wanted to be the first to test a live polio vaccine (Pascal, 1990).

The CHAT vaccine

Missing image
An unrelated polio vaccine being administered in Africa, c. 1982

CHAT was an oral, live experimental vaccine created at the Wistar Institute in Philadelphia by Hilary Koprowski. Between 1957 and 1960 it was given to roughly a million Africans. In Africa, it was administered in the Belgian territories; now the Congo, Rwanda and Burundi. These countries also happen to be the epicentre for the HIV-1 strain of AIDS (which accounts for 99% of cases).

CHAT was an oral vaccine; it was often squirted from a syringe into the back of the patient's throat. Oral transmission is a proven, though inefficient, route for HIV infection. Cases have been confirmed of HIV being spread by oral sex and breast feeding. Mucosal cells and oral lesions, as well as the tonsils, are possible entry points for HIV. The vaccine was given to many young infants with undeveloped immune systems.

In Africa, it was standard to transport a small amount of the original vaccine and then locally amplify it using local facilities and tissue cultures harvested from native animals. In South Africa, African green monkey tissue was used to amplify the Sabin vaccine. In French West Africa and Equatorial Africa, baboons were used to amplify a vaccine from the Pasteur Institute. And in Poland, the CHAT vaccine was amplified using Asian macaques.

Recent discoveries

Missing image
The LMS was sited at Kisangani, formerly Stanleyville

In 2003, Edward Hooper and colleagues travelled to the Democratic Republic of Congo and uncovered testimony supporting the OPV hypothesis. In the Congo, the Laboratoire Medical de Stanleyville (LMS) was responsible for testing the CHAT vaccine and perform the initial set of vaccinations. A few miles from LMS was Lindi Camp, a chimpanzee colony at which more than 500 chimps and bonobos, collected from a 300km radius, were sacrificed between 1956 and 1960.

In Kisangani, Hooper talked to former lab technicians that had worked on the vaccination program at LMS. Jacues Kanyama, a virology technician, alleged that batches of CHAT had been prepared locally, a possibility formerly denied by Belgian and American staff who claimed that the lab was too primitive and lacked equipment. According to Kanyama, Paul Osterrieth, in charge of the virology department, had been producing an oral polio vaccine on-site. Philip Elebe, a microbiology technician, claimed that tissue cultures were being produced from Lindi chimpanzees. Osterrieth disputes these claims, saying that no vaccine was prepared locally and that only the CHAT vaccine from America was used. If the accounts are true, they describe a clear mechanism for the introduction of HIV into the human population.


In 1987 Louis Pascal began to suspect that polio vaccines contaminated with SIVs could be responsible for the AIDS epidemic. By reading medical journals from the 1950s and 1960s and comparing with what was known about the first cases of HIV infection, he concluded that Koprowski's CHAT Type 1 vaccine administered in Belgian Congo between 1957 and 1960 was a likely source. He tried unsuccessfully for several years to publish his findings in a scientific journal. Finally, in 1991, Pascal published them in a working paper from the Department of Science and Technology Studies at the University of Wollongong.[1] (http://www.uow.edu.au/arts/sts/bmartin/dissent/documents/AIDS/Pascal91.html)

In the same year Blaine Elswood, an AIDS treatment activist who had develeoped similar ideas, contacted the journalist Tom Curtis about a "bombshell story". Curtis investigated the story and published an article in Rolling Stone 1992.[2] (http://www.uow.edu.au/arts/sts/bmartin/dissent/documents/AIDS/Curtis92.html). Hilary Koprowski sued the Rolling Stone and Tom Curtis for defamation. The magazine published a retraction: "we never wished to suggest that it has been scientifically proven that Koprowski is the father of AIDS."[3] (http://www.uow.edu.au/arts/sts/bmartin/dissent/documents/AIDS/rs93.html) Rolling Stone also had to pay one million dollars for legal fees and damages.

A few scientists, notably the biologist W.D. Hamilton thought the theory required serious investigation, but they received little support from the scientific community. Hamilton wrote a letter to Science in 1994[4] (http://www.uow.edu.au/arts/sts/bmartin/dissent/documents/AIDS/Hamilton94/AIDSvsLawsuit.html) supporting Pascal and Curtis, but it was rejected by the editors.

Journalist Edward Hooper, who had already began to investigate the origin of AIDS when the OPV theory was first put forward gradually became convinced of its truth After nine years of investigations he detailed the theory and evidence in his 1999 book, The River. In 2004, the Origin of Aids a TV documentary strongly supportive of the OPV theory, appeared on television stations globally.


For 15 years, the OPV AIDS theory has been criticized by members of the scientific and medical establishment as being unfounded, unlikely or inconsistent with HIV epidemiology. However, although these criticisms are widely publicized, particularly by mainstream science journals, they have yet to definitively disprove the OPV hypothesis and controversy continues. In October 1992, the journal Science ran a story titled "Panel Nixes Congo Vaccine as AIDS source", on the basis of a panel arranged by the Wistar Institute, an organization at the center of this controversy. In September 2000, 6 samples of the CHAT vaccine from the Wistar Institute were independently tested and no trace of HIV, SIV or chimpanzee DNA was found. This led to widespread announcements of the death of the OPV theory, for example Robin Weiss's article in Nature titled 'Polio vaccines exonerated'. But the samples were not from the same batch as was given out in Kinshasa. Furthermore, the hypothesis that CHAT may have been prepared locally in Africa makes these criticisms less definitive.

Critics also claim that the OPV hypothesis, if widely known, would undermine public confidence in mass vaccination programs and, in particular, U.N. plans to eradicate polio. Some, such as Hilary Koprowski, have claimed that anti-vaccine sentiment in Africa has intensified due to the publicization of the hypothesis. However, Hooper argues that conspiratorial rumours about vaccination have been prevalent for most of the century and do not relate to the OPV hypothesis. Hooper also points out that he does not claim that modern polio vaccines are anything but safe[5] (http://www.uow.edu.au/arts/sts/bmartin/dissent/documents/AIDS/Hooper04/safety.html).


If polio vaccination was responsible for AIDS, it is not without precedent. SV-40, the 40th discovered simian virus, was introduced into the human population in the 1950s by contaminated polio vaccines produced in Asian rhesus monkey kidney cells. It now infects 23% of the population, and is likely to be passed on to future generations. Research has shown that SV-40 induces tumours in hamsters, and has been found present in human brain tumours, mesotheliomas and bone tumours. It is accepted that SV-40 probably increases the risk of some forms of cancer.

A similar case occurred in 1942, in which 50,000 US servicemen were infected with acute hepatitis B due to contaminated yellow fever vaccine.


A zoonosis is a disease capable of passing between animals and humans. Like other AIDS origin hypotheses, the OPV hypothesis depends on zoonotic transfer to explain the spread of SIV into the human population and its evolution into HIV. Examples of zoonotic transfer include Ebola virus, Marburg virus and SV-40 (see above). Arguments against xenotransplantation, the transfer of animal tissue into humans, are supported by the OPV hypothesis, if proven. Such medical experimentation could lead to future epidemics of unknown animal viruses.

See also

External links


  • Lecatsas, Gerasmos & Alexander, Jennifer (1989). Safe Testing of Poliovirus Vaccine and the Origin of HIV Infection in Man. South African Medical Journal Vol 76, No. 8,Oct 21, p. 451
  • Lecatsas, Gerasmos (1991). Origin of AIDS. Nature Vol 351, No. 6323, May 16, p. 179.
  • Pascal, Louis (1991). What Happens When Science Goes Bad: The Corruption of Science and the Origin of AIDS: A Study in Spontaneous Generation Science and Technology Analysis Working Paper #9, University of Wollongong. [6] (http://www.uow.edu.au/arts/sts/bmartin/dissent/documents/AIDS/Pascal91.html)
  • Hooper, Edward (1999). The River : A Journey to the Source of HIV and AIDS. Boston: Little, Brown, Harmondsworth: The Penguin Press.
  • Hooper, Edward (2003). Aids and the Polio Vaccine. London Review of Books Vol 25, No. 7. [7] (http://www.lrb.co.uk/v25/n07/hoop01_.html)
  • Vilchez RA & Butel JS (2004). Emergent human pathogen simian virus 40 and its role in cancer. Clin Microbiol Rev. Vol 17, No. 3, July, pp 495-508. [8] (http://cmr.asm.org/cgi/content/abstract/17/3/495)

Other HIV/AIDS related articles in Wikipedia
HIV test | Antiretroviral drug | HIV vaccine
AIDS in Africa | AIDS in Latin America | AIDS in the United States
Treatment Action Campaign | XV International AIDS Conference, 2004 | International AIDS Society
World AIDS Day | List of AIDS-related topics |Timeline of AIDS
AIDS myths and urban legends | AIDS conspiracy theories | OPV AIDS hypothesis
Scientific Reappraisal of HIV-AIDS Hypothesis | Duesberg hypothesis
NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt | List of HIV-positive individuals

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