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"There is nothing in the results from these tests to support the theory that HIV entered the human population during the late 1950s' polio virus clinical trials in Africa," said Claudio Basilico, chair of the microbiology department at New York University School of Medicine and lead investigator for the trials.
Scientists believe that HIV, the human immunodeficiency virus that causes AIDS in humans, originated from a type of SIV (simian immunodeficiency virus) found in chimpanzees in western Africa. Various theories have been proposed to explain how or when the virus made the jump from chimps to humans.
In the latest tests, samples of four different supplies of the vaccine, including some used in the original African vaccination program, were examined for traces of genetic material. Independent studies were conducted at the Max Planck Institute in Leipzig, Germany; the Pasteur Institute in Paris; and Roche Molecular Systems in Pleasanton, California. None of the labs were able to find any chimp DNA, nor were they able to find any evidence of either HIV or SIV viruses in the vaccines.
"In fact," said Basilico, the laboratories were able to determine that all of the Wistar samples were grown in monkey cell cultures rather than chimpanzee cell cultures."
"Does this definitively rule out the vaccine theory? No, but it makes it more unlikely," he said.