Theory That HIV Spread to Humans Via Oral Polio Vaccine ‘Isn’t Dead Yet,’ Opinion Piece Says
The theory that HIV jumped from primates to humans through the testing of oral polio vaccines -- made using primate cells -- in Burundi, Rwanda and what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo in the 1950s "isn't dead yet" because it has yet to be definitively disproved, Jay Ingram, host of the Discovery Channel's "Daily Planet," writes in a Toronto Star opinion piece. The "generally accepted" theory of HIV origin describes a scenario in which a 20th century hunter in Africa contracted simian immunodeficiency virus -- a virus similar to HIV -- from an infected chimpanzee through a cut and then transmitted the virus, which eventually mutated into HIV, Ingram writes. However, that theory "isn't that great," according to primatologist Jim Moore, Ingram says. The theory that HIV was manmade -- whether intentionally or not -- surfaced more than 10 years ago, Ingram continues. However, the theory "wasn't taken seriously" until British journalist Edward Hooper, in his book The River, proposed that cells from SIV-positive chimpanzees could have been used in the experimental polio vaccinations, infecting recipients of the vaccines, Ingram says. Since then, a test of samples of the original vaccine has uncovered "no traces of chimp DNA or SIV," according to Ingram. In addition, researchers at Los Alamos National Laboratory in 2000 have concluded from genetic studies that HIV originated at least 20 years before the polio vaccine program, and chimps that harbor the version of SIV that is the reported precursor to HIV are thought to not have been located near the vaccine production site in Africa, Ingram says. However, each of these findings is subject to possible error, and "as long as there is no final nail in that coffin, theories will abound, to nobody's benefit," Ingram concludes (Ingram, Toronto Star, 10/24).This is part of the Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.