The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) pandemic was not sparked by contaminated polio vaccines, a Brief Communication in the 22 April 2004 issue of Nature (Vol. 428, No. 6985, p. 820) suggests. The data should help to end speculation that the immunodeficiency virus jumped to humans after polio vaccines became contaminated with a simian form of the virus.
The oral polio vaccine (OPV)/AIDS theory claims that chimpanzees from the Democratic Republic of Congo were the source of a simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) that was transmitted to humans when chimpanzee tissues were allegedly used in the preparation of OPV. Michael Worobey and colleagues now show that this is not the case. The team demonstrate that SIV is endemic in wild Congolese chimps but that the circulating virus is very different from all strains of HIV-1 - providing direct evidence that these chimps were not the source of the human AIDS pandemic.
The evidence is timely as fears about the safety of polio vaccines are currently threatening the global campaign to eradicate the disease. The data should finally lay the OPV/AIDS theory to rest, the authors say.
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