Royal Society

Forensic Epidemiology

Vaccine Theory of AIDS Origins Disputed at Royal Society

Jon Cohen

Science, Vol. 289, 15 September 2000, pp. 1850-1851.

LONDON, ENGLAND--For 2 days this week, the staid Royal Society hosted a spirited, sometimes raucous, meeting on the origin of the AIDS epidemic, the first such gathering ever held. At center stage was a controversial theory that a contaminated polio vaccine tested in Africa more than 40 years ago sparked the epidemic. The theory took a hit when researchers revealed that tests of old samples of the vaccine provided no supporting evidence, and the main proponent of the theory, British writer Edward Hooper, endured a verbal battering himself from several prominent scientists. But Hooper, unbowed, got in plenty of jabs of his own.

Showdown in London

Von Stefan Klein, FACTS, September 14, 2000

© 2000 TA-Media AG

Aids Hat ein Polio-Impfstoff die Seuche ausgeloest? Der Verdacht ist vorerst entkraeftet. Der Kampf geht weiter.

Scientists Reach no Conclusion on AIDS-Polio Vaccine Connection

By Huntly Collins, The Philadelphia Inquirer, September 13, 2000

© 2000 Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service

LONDON _ The claim that the AIDS epidemic was set off by scientists at Philadelphia's Wistar Institute during polio vaccine tests in Africa in the 1950s suffered more blows here yesterday as the Royal Society of London concluded scientific debate on the topic.

Forscherstreit um Angebliche HIV-Verbreitung

Forscherstreit um angebliche HIV-Verbreitung durch Polio-Impfstoffe haelt an

OTS Originaltextservice, September 13, 2000

© 2000 News Aktuell - DPA Firmengruppe

Auch der Bericht einer Expertengruppe hat den Forscherstreit um die angebliche HIV-Verbreitung durch fruehe Polio-Impfstoffe nicht beendet. Wie die Wochenzeitung DIE ZEIT berichtet, hielt der britische Journalist Edward Hooper, Autor des Buchs "The River", waehrend einer Pressekonferenz in der Royal Society in London seinen Vorwurf aufrecht, bei der Erprobung eines experimentellen Polio-Impfstoffes in Zentralafrika seien Impflinge womoeglich durch HIV-verseuchte Vakzinen infiziert worden.

New Row Over Origin of AIDS Virus

Does fresh evidence prove western researchers unleashed HIV by experimenting on chimps in Africa?

Guardian (UK), Tuesday 12 September 2000

James Meek, science correspondent

The disturbing and fiercely disputed theory that the Aids virus was unleashed accidentally by western medical researchers in Africa in the 1950s gained new impetus yesterday, with the emergence of fresh witness testimony about the use of chimpanzees in an African mass vaccination trial.

Vaccine-AIDS Link Dismissed Scientists say Virus Predates Polio Serum

Patricia Reaney, Reuters, Philadelphia Daily News, September 12, 2000

© 2000 Philadelphia Daily News

AIDS experts yesterday dismissed a theory about the origins of the HIV virus which suggests the disease was spread to humans through a contaminated polio vaccine used in Africa in the late 1950s.

Statement of the Hypothesis

Statement of the Hypothesis that an Experimental Polio Vaccine was Origin of HIV

Contemporary Women's Issues, September 12, 2000

Theory suggests that an experimental polio vaccine introduced in Central Africa in the 1950s may have exposed the general population to the HIV virus

© 2000 World Health Organization

Tests Fail to Link AIDS Spread, Polio Vaccine

AIDS:Tests Fail to Link AIDS Spread, Polio Vaccine

Facts on File World News Digest, September 11, 2000

© 2000 Facts on File, Inc.

Claudio Basilico of the New York University School of Medicine September 11 released the results of a study that had failed to link the 1950s distribution of a polio vaccine in Africa to the beginning of the spread of AIDS. The announcement was made at the Royal Society, a London research organization. The link had been suggested most recently by a 1999 book by British journalist Edward Hooper, entitled The River, which posited that the vaccine had been cultivated using tissue from chimpanzees, the animal in which many scientists believed the AIDS virus had originated.

Press Release

Press Release made available at the Royal Society discussion meeting on the origin of AIDS, 11-12 September 2000

The Year 2000 for many is just a chronological event, but for those of us in polio research the year was to mark the eradication of polio from this planet. It has been fifty years since I was the first scientist to successfully and safely immunize a human being against this dreaded killer.

Press Conference Statement by Stanley Plotkin MD

Embargoed until 9/11/00 15:45 BST

Mr. Hooper has presented the hypothesis that CHAT, a type 1 polio vaccine developed in the US by Dr. Koprowski, and tested there, in Europe and in the former Belgian Congo in the late 50s, was contaminated with HIV. He is not the first to present that hypothesis, and many scientists, including myself, (as I was involved in those tests) have spent a great deal of time researching the origin of the HIV viruses. During the last year, I have studied Mr. Hooper's book and have done an extensive reconstruction of what actually happened 40 years ago, based on documents and testimony. I also did everything possible to facilitate the PCR tests on the vaccine samples conducted by Wistar.

Scientists to Debate Whether Polio Trial Triggered AIDS Epidemic

By Huntly Collins, The Philadelphia Inquirer, September 10, 2000

© 2000 Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service

Was a monumental effort to conquer polio, once the leading cause of physical disability, responsible for unleashing the world AIDS pandemic, which has stricken 53 million people, most of them in Africa?

Book on AIDS Raises Tempest


Huntly Collins, Contra Costa Times (California), September 10, 2000

© 2000 Contra Costa Times

Was a monumental effort to conquer polio, once the leading cause of physical disability, responsible for unleashing the world AIDS pandemic, which has stricken 53 million people, most of them in Africa?

The Accused

THE CHARGE: That what became the Aids virus was passed from chimp to man during experiments in the Congo to find a cure for polio. THE JURY: The world's leading Aids scientists, gathering in London next week to hear evidence at the Royal Society. THE VERDICT: will once and for all clear up one of medicine's greatest mysteries.

By Steve Connor

The Independent (London), 8 September 2000, Friday Review p. 1.

The Origin of Aids

A posh London conference tackles the Polio vaccine controversy.

Newsweek, September 6, 2000, Newsweek Web Exclusive © 2000 Newsweek

Medical conferences are fairly predictable affairs: a lot of hypotheses, an onslaught of data and, for the most part, congeniality-at least outwardly. But last week's gathering on the origin of AIDS at London's posh Royal Society-complete with afternoon tea-took on the excited and at times contentious tenor of a courtroom trial. On one side, Edward Hooper, author of "The River: A Journey to the Source of HIV and AIDS," who believes that the virus was most likely introduced into humans through an experimental polio vaccine given in Africa in the late 1950s. On the other, scientists Hilary Koprowski and Stanley Plotkin who created the vaccine at Philadelphia's Wistar Institute. Hooper's presence as a non-scientist amidst hundreds of medical experts was remarkable, but the gravest implication of the theory is impossible to ignore: scientific culpability for a plague that has killed 18 million worldwide. "He deserves," says one of the conference organizers, "a hearing."

Letter to Guardian

It is most certainly not members of the Royal Society who should be criticised, but those who have backtracked about appearing at the conference, or worked to undermine it.


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