Brief Communications

Nature 428, 820 (22 April 2004) | doi:10.1038/428820a

Origin of AIDS:  Contaminated polio vaccine theory refuted

Michael Worobey1, Mario L. Santiago2, Brandon F. Keele2, Jean-Bosco N. Ndjango4, Jeffrey B. Joy6, Bernard L. Labama5, Benoît D. Dhed'a4, Andrew Rambaut7, Paul M. Sharp8, George M. Shaw2,3 & Beatrice H. Hahn2

Despite strong evidence to the contrary1, 2, 3, 4, 5, speculation continues that the AIDS virus, human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1), may have crossed into humans as a result of contamination of the oral polio vaccine (OPV)6, 7, 8. This 'OPV/AIDS theory' claims that chimpanzees from the vicinity of Stanleyville — now Kisangani in the Democratic Republic of Congo — were the source of a simian immunodeficiency virus (SIVcpz) that was transmitted to humans when chimpanzee tissues were allegedly used in the preparation of OPV6, 7. Here we show that SIVcpz is indeed endemic in wild chimpanzees of this region but that the circulating virus is phylogenetically distinct from all strains of HIV-1, providing direct evidence that these chimpanzees were not the source of the human AIDS pandemic.

  1. Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona 85721, USA
  2. Department of Medicine and Microbiology, University of Alabama, Birmingham, Alabama 35294, USA
  3. Howard Hughes Medical Institute, University of Alabama, Birmingham, Alabama 35294, USA
  4. Faculties of Sciences, University of Kisangani, Democratic Republic of Congo
  5. Faculties of Medicine, University of Kisangani, Democratic Republic of Congo
  6. Department of Biological Sciences, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia V5A 1S6, Canada
  7. Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, South Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3PS, UK
  8. Institute of Genetics, University of Nottingham, Nottingham NG7 2UH, UK

Correspondence to: Michael Worobey1 Email:


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