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New evidence contradicts polio vaccine-AIDS theory

New evidence contradicts polio vaccine-AIDS theory

Scientists say new research offers further proof that the AIDS epidemic was not sparked by polio vaccines used in the 1950s in Africa. Many medical experts have dismissed the controversial theory on the origin of AIDS, saying there is no scientific evidence to back it. Even so, persistent doubts about vaccine safety are blamed for hampering World Health Organization efforts to eradicate polio in countries where it is still a problem. Generally accepted among scientists is the view that a chimpanzee virus jumped species when a human was bitten by a monkey or when people ate contaminated monkey flesh. However, the oral polio vaccine-AIDS theory suggests that chimpanzees from the Democratic Republic of Congo were the source of the virus and that scientists accidentally triggered the AIDS epidemic with vaccines that were contaminated with the monkey virus. The researchers, led by Michael Worobey of the University of Arizona, have discovered a new strain of chimpanzee virus near Kisangani in the Democratic Republic of Congo. It is very different from HIV, they said, offering further evidence that chimpanzees could not have been the source of human AIDS. Chimpanzees around Kisangani are endemically infected with simian immunodeficiency virus that is very different from the human strain. "The locally circulating strain [of the chimpanzee virus] is very distantly related to HIV. It is not a virus that could have been the progenitor, and therefore HIV did not come from that region," Worobey said in an interview. Worobey and colleagues said their data, together with information showing that the spread of HIV to humans started in the 1930s and the absence of detectable chimpanzee virus or DNA in stocks of the original vaccines, "should finally lay the oral polio vaccine-AIDS theory to rest." But Edward Hooper, who wrote about the theory in his book The River, said Worobey's conclusion is wrong. In a statement, Hooper said, "Although Worobey's new research is helpful, the chimp groups his team has sampled are far from being representative of the chimpanzees that were used for the polio vaccine research." (Reuters)

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