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Molecular Analyses of Oral Polio Vaccine Samples

We analyzed several early oral polio vaccine pools to test the "OPV/AIDS hypothesis". Our analysis found no evidence for the presence of chimpanzee DNA, but did find evidence of monkey DNA.

Apr 20, 2001

Authors: H.N. Poinar, M. Kuch and S. Pääbo

Science, Vol. 292, Issue 5517, April 2001, pp. 743-744. DOI: 10.1126/science.1058463  


It has been suggested that the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), and thus the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) it causes, was inadvertently
introduced to humans by the use of an oral polio vaccine (OPV) during a vaccination campaign launched by the Wistar Institute, Philadelphia, PA, USA, in the Belgian Congo in 1958 and 1959. The “OPV/AIDS hypothesis” suggests that the OPV used in this campaign was produced in chimpanzee kidney epithelial cell cultures rather than in monkey kidney cell cultures, as stated by H. Koprowski and co-workers, who produced the OPV. If chimpanzee cells were indeed used, this would lend support to the OPV/AIDS hypothesis, since chimpanzees harbor a simian immunodeficiency virus, widely accepted to be the origin of HIV-1. We analyzed several early OPV pools and found no evidence for the presence of chimpanzee DNA; by contrast, monkey DNA is present.

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