Second Referee's Report

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(Certain details in this referee's report indicate that the author was none other than Professor Robin Weiss, one of the UK's leading retrovirologists, and the man who, together with vaccine-makers Plotkin and Koprowski, has taken the leading role in coordinating opposition to the OPV/AIDS hypothesis.  Ed Hooper, 7/3/06.)

Review #2 of W D Hamilton's submission to the magazine Science in 1994 on the origin of AIDS and polio vaccines


Hamilton makes an important point. There are serious snags to the "Curtis" theory, as elucidated in his third paragraph, yet one cannot state with any certainty yet that the oral polio vaccine was not the source of HIV-1 introduction into humans. Anyone who has looked at a primary monkey kidney monolayer culture, especially by time-lapse cinematography, will have seen numerous macrophages moving over the epithelial cells like vacuum cleaners. By secondary passage they have disappeared, but I would consider them more likely to bear HIV than the very few lymphocytes present.

Like Hamilton, and unlike Haseltine as reported in Curtis' article, I believe the origin of human HIV infection is important, as a lesson to help prevent further modern, possibly iatrogenic pandemics. Actually I think the lesson is already made explicit, and that testing the stored vaccine seed samples at the Wistar will not provide an answer. If they are PCR-positive it will provide a further law-suit, but no compelling evidence that it is the source of the pandemic; if they are PCR-negative, it will leave answered [sic] the possibility of local contamination by chimpanzee tissue in Central Africa.

I disagree that all other theories of the origin of HIV are equally implausible to the polio vaccine theory. No case of oral sexual transmission of HIV is known; but thousands of parenteral cases and millions of genital cases. We still need an explanation why HIV-1 and HIV-2 infection of humans began apparently very closely together in evolutionary time, but geographically well apart. I consider parenteral transfer of HIV-1 from chimpanzee to human more likely.

I think Hamilton would actually pack more punch if he were less emotional and polemical, e.g. change "terrorize" to "intimidate" and be less pompous about Galileo and the Inquisition.

Hamilton joins Curtis in assuming that Ellswood [sic] set off the polio vaccine hare. It goes back much further. For instance, I came across it in 1986 in anti-vivisectionist literature. I even briefly discussed it in print in 1988 in a publication of Hamilton's own Royal Society. But I am not claiming priority, and I do not consider polio vaccine to be one of the more likely theories of origin.