|Ken Shirriff -> AIDS theories -> HIV from polio vaccine?|
The following information is somewhat out of date, but may still be useful.
AIDS INFORMATION NEWSLETTER Michael Howe, MSLS, Editor AIDS Information Center VA Medical Center, San Francisco (415) 221-4810 ext 3305 July 17, 1992 SPECIAL TOPIC ISSUE: ORIGIN OF AIDS DEBATE ON AIDS ORIGIN An article featured in Rolling Stone magazine (March 19, 1992) that addresses the origin of AIDS has prompted a lot of controversy. Tom Curtis' article, "The Origin of AIDS," hypothesizes that HIV first entered humans in Africa via an oral polio vaccine widely administered in the late 1950s. Some researchers argue that the article's hypothesis is not impossible because simian viruses were found to taint some early polio vaccines. However, most AIDS researchers believe the hypothesis is inaccurate. The article explains how Hilary Koprowski, former director of Philadelphia's Wistar Institute and one of the pioneers of the polio vaccine, may have administered an HIV-contaminated oral vaccine which was used to control polio epidemics in the Belgian Congo--now comprised of Zaire, Rwanda and Burundi--and later used widely in Poland and Switzerland. Curtis indicates that HIV infection may have transpired via mucosal cells, lesions in the mouth, or through aerosolized virus trickling into the lungs. Curtis also suggests Kaprowski believed that uninfected macaques from India and the Philippine were used, but the macaques may have contracted SIV while caged with other infected animals. (Science. 1992 Mar 20;255(5051):1505). RESEARCHERS TO PROBE THEORY ON AIDS ORIGIN PHILADELPHIA (UPI) -- The Wistar Institute, an independent research facility on the University of Pennsylvania campus, is assembling a research team to test a theory that AIDS originated more than 30 years ago. Wistar Director Giovanni Rovera said he is in the process of assembling a team of researchers to evaluate the theory which was presented in a Rolling Stone article. The article speculates that HIV may have been present in tissue from a monkey kidney used by Dr. Hilary Koprowski to grow a polio vaccine distributed in the Belgian Congo. Koprowski is quoted in the article as saying that samples of the original vaccine are still preserved in freezers at Wistar. Lisa Dominici, a Wistar spokeswoman, said if the specimens are located, scientists should be able to determine if they contain HIV. But she said most experts agree it is highly unlikely that the current AIDS epidemic originated from a contaminated monkey kidney. "The article is highly speculative and the overwhelming reaction from the scientific community is that it's totally unreasonable," Dominici said. "But that doesn't mean we're going to dismiss it. We plan to handle this in a responsible way." (UPI, March 19, 1992). PANEL APPOINTED TO PROBE THEORY ON AIDS ORIGIN A blue-ribbon panel of six scientists has been appointed to evaluate a theory that AIDS originated in a batch of polio vaccine prepared at the Wistar Institute and distributed in Africa. Wistar Director Giovanni Rovera said he appointed the panel "in the interest of responsible scientific research and accurate reporting," after the theory appeared in the March 19 issue of Rolling Stone magazine. The committee is co-chaired by Dr. Claudio Basilico, chairman of the microbiology department at New York University's School of Medicine and Frank Lilly, a molecular genetics professor at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. The other committee members include Ronald Desrosiers, professor of microbiology and molecular genetics at Harvard Medical School; David Ho, director of the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center and a microbiology professor at New York University Medical Center; Eckard Wimmer, chairman of the microbiology department of the School of Medicine of State University of New York at Stony Brook; and Clayton Buck, professor and director of scientific development at the Wistar Institute. (UPI, April 13, 1992). NO AIDS RISK FROM POLIO VACCINES From the Food and Drug Administration: Recently several stories have appeared in the media linking early polio vaccine trials to the origin or spread of the AIDS virus. The Public Health Service has seen no convincing evidence to support this alleged connection or even indicates that it is remotely possible. On the contrary, PHS, the World Health Organization and all other leading medical authorities who have evaluated this question have concluded that the polio vaccine does not and has never posed a risk of transmitting the AIDS virus or any related virus. The theory which alleges that polio vaccine is linked to the spread of AIDS, postulates that kidneys from monkeys infected with various retroviruses are, or were, used in the production of polio vaccine. According to the theory, this rendered the vaccine capable of infecting humans with the AIDS virus. There are several factors which refute the credibility of this theory: - Monkey kidneys are used as cultures for producing polio vaccine, but these monkeys are not infected with the simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV)---a retrovirus which affects monkeys. The absence of this retrovirus in these monkeys in the United States is assured, in that only monkeys from SIV-free colonies are used. Every monkey is tested for antibodies to SIV. - Even with regard to older polio vaccines produced in kidney cells from monkeys that may have been infected (before modern screening tests were available), extensive evidence indicates that these vaccines did not contain or transmit SIV. Such vaccines were tested by various laboratory techniques, and no SIV was detected. Individuals vaccinated with such vaccines have been tested and found not to have antibodies to SIV. In addition, multiple efforts to recover SIV from kidney cells have failed, and attempts to get SIV to replicate in monkey kidney cells exposed to a highly infectious inoculum have also failed. - There are no reliable scientific data which indicate that the AIDS virus originated from monkey retroviruses. - The World Health Organization has stated that there is no evidence of transmission of SIV to humans via polio vaccine. In summary, several avenues of research show that the theory that links the polio vaccine to the origin or spread of AIDS does not make much sense from a virologic standpoint. Additionally, the theory does nothing to explain the known epidemiology of the AIDS pandemic, and therefore provides no substantive insight into the real origin or nature of AIDS. The existence of this unsubstantiated theory should not deter people from receiving needed polio vaccinations. Polio is a very real infectious disease which has killed and crippled millions throughout the world. Global polio vaccine immunization efforts have saved literally millions of lives, particularly in the Third World, and should not be undermined by sensationalized speculation. (FDA Release, April 6, 1992). "Origins of HIV" Lancet (07/04/92) Vol. 340, No. 8810, P. 58 (Neal, Keith) The urbanization of Africa may explain how two sexually transmitted strains of HIV suddenly appeared and quickly prompted an epidemic, writes Keith Neal of the Westbrook House in Sheffield, U.K. Neal disputes Professor Lecatsas's and Professor Alexander's conclusion that the simultaneous incidence of HIV-1 and HIV-2 is proof that the contamination of poliovirus vaccine was the origin of AIDS. Neal argues that changes that occurred in Africa since the end of colonialism have affected the HIV epidemic, especially rapid urbanization across the continent and a mass movement of people due to civil war and starvation. HIV-1 and HIV-2 were brought into the cities and towns through the erosion of tribal traditions and the resulting increase in sexual freedom, the encouragement of multiple sex partners, the rise in poverty among women leading to increasing numbers turning to prostitution, and the rising demand for prostitution spurred by the migrant worker system. In addition, the developing road system transported the virus across the continent as indicated by high rates of infection among truck drivers. "Origins of HIV" Lancet (06/06/92) Vol339, No.8806, P.1427 (Lecatsas, G. and Alexander, J.J.) Due to the circumstantial evidence regarding the possibility that the poliovirus vaccine could have been the origin of AIDS, to ignore it would be ethically and scientifically wrong, write G. Lecatsas and J.J. Alexander of the Medical University of Southern Africa in Medunsa, South Africa. In the March 7 edition of the Lancet, Kyle discussed the possibility of HIV's origin lying in poliovaccines, an idea that was proposed in 1989 and again at the International Congress of Virology in Berlin, in August, 1990. Lecatsas and Alexander have tested a healthy vervet monkey for major HIV-1 antigens and the results were positive. Using this animal's tissue for human vaccine production would be unethical. But this could have happened several times because monkey kidney tissue was first used in poliovaccine production in the 1950s. These cultures could boost the growth of retroviruses. HIV can infect certain CD4 cells and there is evidence that some mouse and simian fibroblast cultures encompass the CD4 antigen. A man with the simultaneous occurrence within the past 30 years of HIV-1 and HIV-2, which are distantly related in evolutionary-terms, indicates contamination since closer relatives to the human strains exist in non-human primates, the authors conclude. "Possible Origins of AIDS" Science (05/29/92) Vol. 256, No. 5061, P. 1259 (Fox, Cecil H.) Jon Cohen's article on "the origin of AIDS from polio vaccine" did not consider more complex alternative theories, writes Cecil H. Fox in a letter to Science. One explanation could be that rural Africans supplement their diet by hunting and eating small wild animals, frequently simians who carry simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV). Those Africans who hunt these animals occasionally injure themselves while preparing the carcasses, and animal blood has possibly entered human tissues through inadvertent cuts. If a villager was infected with an animal virus in the years before the 1960s, others in the village could have also acquired the infection, which translates to HIV. Another hypothesis involves the parental or mucosal exposure of up to 400 million people to vaccines made from crude extracts of primary cultures of monkey tissues from 1952-1982. There is evidence that either HIV or SIV can grow in cultured lymphocytes or macrophages that may accompany industrial cultures of epithelium taken from wild monkeys and used in polio vaccines, concludes Fox. "The Source of HIV?" Advocate (05/05/92) No. 602, P. 33 (Delaney, Martin) All of the speculation over whether or not HIV originated from polio vaccines of the 1950s is just a distraction from the real issues of AIDS, writes Martin Delaney of Project Inform, a nonprofit gay foundation that supplies AIDS treatments worldwide. Researchers have considered that a similar strain of HIV from monkeys somehow jumped species. The new theory states that the virus could have made its way into polio vaccines tested in central Africa in the late 1950s, a time when there was no means to screen for HIV. Researchers are arguing over whether to test the remaining samples of the vaccines for traces of HIV-like virus. If the vaccines are found to be tainted it would not alter the AIDS epidemic or improve precautions in future vaccines development. However, it would impose a burden of remorse on people in the '50s who wished to save the world from polio. Testing the vaccines might be the only way to end speculation, but is not worth the negative impact it could have, Delaney concludes. "Origin of AIDS" Lancet (04/04/92) Vol. 339, No. 8797, P. 867 (Schulz, Thomas F.) The implication that poliovirus vaccine lots were the source of the AIDS epidemic at present lacks any factual basis, writes Thomas F. Schulz of the Institute of Cancer Research in London, U.K. In the March 7 Lancet, Kyle hypothesized that retrovirus particles were present in some lots of oral poliovirus vaccine grown on African green monkey cells and that there may be a link to the simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) isolated from these monkeys. While this SIV (agm) is a lentivirus like HIV-1 and HIV-2 it belongs to a different group. SIV (cpz), isolated from chimpanzees, is the closest primate relative of HIV-1 found in free-living monkeys. Viruses related to SIV (agm) have never been found in humans. Although the SIV (agm) isolates are more divergent than isolates from the other lentivirus groups, they can still be grouped separately and differ from the HIV-1/SIV (cpz). If the retroviral particles observed in certain poliovirus vaccine lots were SIV (agm) virions (not C-type viruses), they cannot be the origin of HIV-1 and HIV-2, Schulz concludes. "Origins of a Plague" U.S. News + World Report (03/30/92) Vol.112, No.12, P.50 (Brownlee, Shannon) Many theories exist as to how the AIDS epidemic originated. The most recent, published in Rolling Stone magazine, involves a polio vaccine that carried the simian version of HIV. The controversial idea has been widely derided by most scientists as simplistic and unprovable. However, the hypothesis does reveal one major point of consensus: African monkeys are almost certainly the source of the virus. The Rolling Stone story told of Hilary Kaprowski, former director of the Wistar Institute in Philadelphia, who was racing to develop the vaccine that would protect the world against polio. Kaprowski created his vaccine from an attenuated strain of polio virus that could invoke immunity but was too weak to cause disease. He manufactured his vaccine by culturing this weakened strain of polio virus on monkey kidneys, a fertile medium for the microbe and supposedly the source of simian immunodeficiency virus. Kaprowski's vaccine was squirted into people's mouths and given to at least 200,000 rural Africans in 1957. "A Medical Accident?" Time (03/16/92) Vol. 139, No., 11, P. 56 An article published in a recent issue of Rolling Stone speculates that an oral polio vaccine given to the people of the Belgian Congo in 1957 may be responsible for the birth of HIV. The vaccine, developed by Dr. Hilary Koprowski, was made from weakened polio viruses grown in a culture of monkey kidney cells. Koprowski's recent recollection that green monkeys--the species which harbors a virus similar to HIV--were used for the culture, as well as the coincidence that the Belgian Congo--now Zaire--is thought to be the place of origin for HIV, led writer Tom Curtis to hypothesize that the vaccine was contaminated with a virus which later evolved into HIV. Among the problems with Curtis' theory are the time span between the use of the vaccine and the first incidence of HIV, and the uncertainty over whether HIV can survive oral ingestion. Testing of the original vaccine, which has been kept at Philadelphia's Wistar Institute since, will begin shortly, according to Wistar officials. "Simian Retroviruses, Poliovaccine, and Origin of AIDS" Lancet (03/07/92) Vol. 339, No. 8793, P. 600 (Kyle, Walter S.) AIDS may have stemmed from the unapproved use of poliovaccine, contaminated with small numbers of type-C retrovirus, for the treatment of herpetic lesions, a sexually transmitted condition often noted in early case histories of homosexual men who died of AIDS, writes Walter S. Kyle. A decade ago, simultaneous outbreaks of Kaposi's sarcoma and serious opportunistic infections were reported among homosexual men, especially in New York City, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. In 1982, Centers for Disease Control reported that the coincidence of Kaposi's sarcoma and Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia "strongly suggests the occurrence of a single epidemic of underlying immunosuppression in homosexual men." Essex and colleagues reported that the African green monkey, the species used in the production of most live poliovaccine in the United States, was a reservoir of simian immunodeficiency virus. Whether virus particles found in those vaccine lots were HIV or a variant of HIV can be tested by using the polymerase chain reaction, Kyle concludes. "Origin of AIDS" Lancet (12/21-28/91) Vol. 338, No. 8782/8783, P. 1604 (Gebhardt, D.O.E) The November 28 edition of Nature's commentary entitled "AIDS, monkeys, and malaria" indicated that primate retroviruses may have been transmitted to a man or other monkeys as an outcome of experiments with primate malarias, writes D.O.E. Gebhardt of the Department of Clinical Chemistry at the University Hospital in Liden, Netherlands. The same week an editorial in the Lancet on "New Glands for Old" appeared which referred to the work of Serge Voronoff, who transplanted monkey glands into the scrota of hypogonadal males. These men could have contracted HIV. Voronoff described a 65-year-old man who needed a second graft as "having been over-prodigal of the vital energy supplied him by the old one." It would be catastrophic if this transplant were the origin of the AIDS epidemic, Gebhardt concludes. "Origin and Spread of AIDS" Nature (12/13/91) Vol. 348, No. 6302, P. 578 (Karpas, A.) Human AIDS very likely began as a lentivirus that naturally infected African monkeys until cross-species transfer occurred through sexual practices involving human inoculation with monkey blood for a supposed aphrodisiac effect, writes A. Kaspar of the University of Cambridge, United Kingdom. HIV-2 shares roughly 75 percent homology with SIV, indicating simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) infections could have given rise to AIDS in West African men. Furthermore, a lentivirus recently isolated from a chimp may be the missing link between HIV-1 and SIV. Hundreds of years of European and Asian slave trade in Africa produced no evidence of HIV infection, so the spread in Africa is a recent event. Epidemiologic evidence indicates the disease has spread since World War II via syringes and needles from the West and injectable antibiotics, extensive migration in Africa, and sexual contacts overseas. More than a dozen cases of other SIV infections of humans indicate the possibility of trans-species infection, in which a virus benign in monkeys becomes deadly in humans, Karpas writes. "Origin of AIDS" Nature (05/16/91) Vol. 351, No. 6323, P. 179 (Lecatsas, G.) In a letter to Nature, A. Karpas was premature in singling out African tribal customs as the origin of AIDS in man, writes G. Lecatsas of the Department of Microbiology, Medical University of Southern Africa, South Africa. African tribal customs are old and the disease is new. Karpas also fails to mention the use of tissues from African monkeys carrying simian HIV counterparts in vaccination programs in Africa after World War II, concomitant to the introduction of syringes on the continent. Karpas omits documented evidence of poliovirus transmission to man via vaccine preparations from monkey tissues, as well as the possibility of recombinant simian viruses or endogenous human retroviruses. Poor health conditions in developing countries also make widespread infection likely in Africa, as well as in Brazil and Thailand. "The evidence pointing to Africa [as] the origin of AIDS is tenuous at best," Lecatsas writes, and, because of social repercussions, it is "biased" and imprudent to single out African peoples and customs as the agents of a tragic pandemic. You may also want to examine: Duh, Samuel V. Blacks and AIDS: Causes and Origins. Sage, 1991. 152p (Sage series on race and ethnic relations, 3). $19.95. A review of this book appeared in the first transmission of the "AIDS Book Review Journal" by H. Robert Malinowsky. For a different perspective, however, see my review of this book in the January, 1992 edition of CHOICE magazine.