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 Investigators Report that Chimpanzee Tissues Were Not used for Polio Vaccine Studies in Africa

The November 30, 1999  New York Times review of "The River" by Edward Hooper reported that Hooper had amassed information supporting his hypothesis that HIV in humans might be traced to virus containing chimpanzee tissue used in an experimental oral poliovirus vaccines in what was then the Belgian Congo. The investigators responsible for these trials, Drs. Stanley Plotkin and Hilary Koprowski, reported in a New York Times Letter to the Editor on December 7, 1999, "We...state categorically that no chimpanzee tissues were used by us for polio vaccine production".

The theory that Hooper explores was initially reported in 1992 in Rolling Stone magazine and in a brief letter to The Lancet. Subsequent investigations were conducted by the World Health Organization and other groups which revealed no evidence to back the theory.

Several reviews of Hooper's book have been highly critical. The epidemiology of HIV-infection and genetic tracing indicate that it would be highly unlikely for SIV (which infects chimpanzees) to make a sudden jump to humans in a single-stage such as Hooper suggests. Exposures that are far more likely to lead to transmission include direct contact with animal blood that occurs during harvesting of various primate species for food in many African countries. In harvesting these animals, humans develop cuts and scrapes from fractured bones which would provide a frequent and direct source for introduction of animal blood into humans.


see also: Evidence Disproves Theory Linking OPV and HIV Epidemic in Africa

This page was last updated on August 02, 2010

Institute for Vaccine Safety