In a book published in 1999, journalist Edward Hopper caused a stir when he speculated that chimpanzee kidney cell cultures may have been used to prepare oral polio vaccine stocks used in Africa in the late 1950s, setting in motion the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Now, three reports by investigators in France, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States provide considerable evidence to refute Hopper's claims (Nature. 2001;410:1045-1048).
Two of the reports analyzed frozen samples of the suspect vaccine using sensitive molecular techniques to detect the presence of nucleic acids. Neither HIV-1–related nucleic acids nor chimp mitochondrial DNA were present in the vaccine samples, reported researchers at the National Institute for Biological Standards and Control, Hertfordshire, England, and the Karolinska Institute, Stockholm. Similarly, researchers at the Institut Pasteur, Paris, and colleagues in the United States found the vaccines "were prepared from macaque and not chimpanzee cells, and contain neither human nor simian immunodeficiency virus sequences."