Articles by Ed Hooper

Beatrice Hahn. A Portrait of Scientific Certainty

Beatrice Hahn. A Portrait of Scientific Certainty: Doctor Strangelove in a Silk Shirt.

The Hollywooding of Science

"The Hollywooding of Science". Beatrice Hahn's latest SIV sequences from Cameroonian chimps: an alternative interpretation

Updated 5 August, 2006

If you're new to these issues, read this first.


a) The latest paper by Beatrice Hahn's team (B. F. Keele, B. H. Hahn et al: "Chimpanzee Reservoirs of Pandemic and Nonpandemic HIV-1") [Reference 1] features claims that they have discovered the source of pandemic HIV-1, the "AIDS virus".

b) However, on the basis of the evidence presented, this claim is unsafe. In fact, more than that, it represents a rash over-extrapolation.

c) The reasons for rejecting Hahn's claim include the following: (i) less than 1 in 200 of the chimp troops in this part of Africa have thus far been sampled for SIV; (ii) in reality, the new chimp viruses she has found fall far short of being "dead ringers" for pandemic HIV-1, as has been claimed; (iii) there are close physical and biomedical similarities between Pan troglodytes troglodytes (Ptt) chimps and Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii (Pts) chimps, which some believe should be regrouped into a single subspecies; (iv) members of some groups of Ptt cluster genetically with Pts, and vice versa; (v) despite their claims to the contrary, Hahn and co-authors have not established that Ptt (rather than Pts) represents the reservoir of pandemic HIV-1; (vi) furthermore, the closest primate virus ancestor to pandemic HIV-1 may have existed in a chimp troop that is now extinct.

d) The true reason why it is so important to Hahn's group to establish the Pan troglodytes troglodytes subspecies of chimpanzee as the reservoir of pandemic HIV-1 is that they believe that this refutes the OPV/AIDS theory, which proposes that AIDS began as a result of chimpanzee experiments conducted in Stanleyville, Belgian Congo, in the late 1950s.

e) However, their latest findings do not disprove the OPV/AIDS theory. For a long time, there has been substantial anecdotal and circumstantial evidence that at least some Ptt chimps were present at Stanleyville and/or the nearby chimp camp at Lindi. But a recently-unearthed Belgian article from 1965 proves that the Stanleyville doctors were working with at least one Ptt chimp in early 1960, and perhaps in 1959. Co-caging and group caging were routine at the holding centres at both Lindi and Stanleyville, meaning that viruses could have spread from this Ptt (or similar animals) to other primates (Pts and bonobos) housed in these centres.

f) Furthermore, it is far easier to postulate Ptt chimps, including chimps from south-eastern Cameroon, ending up in the huge holding centres at Lindi and Stanleyville than it is to postulate a human infectee moving from Cameroon to Leopoldville, allowing AIDS to spawn there - and only there.

g) It is also worth emphasising that because of recombination between SIV strains, the origin of pandemic HIV-1 does not automatically require the involvement of the closest viral ancestor genetically. [See below for further details.]

h) There are multiple problems with the latest Hahn/Sharp scenario of how the AIDS pandemic might have started in Leopoldville (over 600 miles by river from her alleged chimpanzee "source"). By contrast, the OPV/AIDS hypothesis is inconvenienced by none of these.

i) The discovery that Ptt were used in the Stanleyville experiments has more significance for the origin of AIDS than Hahn's latest data from Cameroon. Once again, the claims by Hahn and her buddies that "the OPV theory has been laid to rest" are revealed as empty bluster.

The Emperor's New Clothes: Beatrice Hahn and The Latest Mumbo Jumbo

Sadly, some scientists seem to believe that by repeating an untruth often enough, you can persuade the world that it is actually true.

One such group of scientists is that led by Dr Beatrice Hahn of the University of Alabama, whose members seem to be much more interested in trying to earn themselves grants and glittering prizes than in actually helping us understand how the AIDS pandemic began.

The Bushmeat Theorists Fail to Deliver Once Again


The following article was originally written in December 2005, and represents the draft of a letter which I had intended to send to Emerging Infectious Diseases in response to an article published in that month's issue of the journal by a team led by doctors Nathan Wolfe and Donald Burke from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, USA.

How Academics Sometimes Assist With the Airbrushing of History

In February 2006, an important new book about AIDS in Africa appeared. Entitled "The African AIDS Epidemic: A History", and published by James Currey, it is written by John Iliffe, who is Professor of African History at the University of Cambridge.

Second Letter to Prof. Iliffe

February 26th, 2006

Dear Professor Iliffe,

Thankyou for your note dated February 23rd, and for the generous references to my work on pages 202 and 203 of your book, which I had not previously read.

First Letter to Prof. Iliffe

February 21st, 2006

Dear Professor Iliffe,

I recently heard from a Cambridge undergraduate about the impending publication of your new book about the history of AIDS in Africa. I immediately ordered it through Amazon and it arrived a few days ago.

New Claims from Paul Sharp - But Has the Source of HIV-1 Really Been Located?


February 2006. In recent days there has been much press coverage about new claims by American, British and Belgian scientists that they have discovered the geographical source of AIDS. These researchers have apparently detected simian immunodeficiency viruses (SIVs) that are closely related to the AIDS pandemic virus, HIV-1, in the stools of wild chimpanzees living in the very south-eastern corner of Cameroon, in western Africa.

1959 Manchester Case of Syndrome Resembling AIDS

1959 Manchester Case of Syndrome Resembling AIDS, by Edward Hooper and Bill Hamilton, The Lancet, 348, 1363-1365 (1996). This version appears in "Narrow Roads of Gene Land - The Collected Papers of W. D. Hamilton, Volume 3 - Last Words", edited by Mark Ridley, ISBN 0-19-856690-5 (OUP, Oxford, 2005).

The Politics of a Scientific Meeting

The Politics of a Scientific Meeting: The Origin-of-AIDS Debate at the Royal Society by Brian Martin, from Politics and the Life Sciences 20 (2) 119-130 (September 2005).

A note of explanation about the late publication of this article

The official date on the published version of this article is September 2001, and yet it was actually published four years after that, in late 2005.