by Edward Hooper
Thursday, 27 July 2006
On June 6th, 2006, I submitted the following letter ("The Origins of Pandemic HIV-1: A Different Hypothesis") to Science magazine, in response to Keele and Hahn's paper about Cameroonian chimp SIVs, published in late May in Science express.
This letter contains 300 words, the maximum permitted by Science for letters to the editor, and I also submitted a version at 358 words, which included some material about the flimsy nature of the phylogenetic dating of HIV-1.
On June 9th, I received a rejection note from "Science editorial" by e-mail. It did not afford the possibility of discussion or reply.
Given the history of rejection by Science and Nature of all submissions which question the hegemony of the bushmeat hypothesis of origin, this latest rejection letter is perhaps not surprising.
What is worrying about it, however, is that these two magazines have consistently declined to publish any article setting out the OPV/AIDS theory, and yet have repeatedly published (with brash headlines and great fanfare) articles, letters and opinion pieces which falsely claim that the OPV theory has "died its final death", or that it has been refuted or disproved.
I find this obsession with allegedly "disproving" a hypothesis which they have never even published to be rather revealing.
Viewed within that context, one can only conclude that on this, one of the most vital biomedical issues of the last hundred years, Science magazine, just like Nature magazine, is determined to present only a distorted and politically acceptable version of the truth to its readership.
A most depressing conclusion.
Ed Hooper. 27 July 2006.
The ongoing SIV testing of wild chimpanzees by investigators Keele, Hahn and colleagues is welcome. However, under 0.5% of central African chimp troops have been sampled, which raises doubts about their certainty that the Pan troglodytes troglodytes (Ptt) SIVs from south-eastern Cameroon represent the ancestral "reservoir", or "source", of pandemic HIV-1.
But even if they're correct, their data seem as supportive of the oral polio vaccine (OPV) theory of AIDS origin as of their bushmeat theory.
They posit an infected chimp-hunter or bushmeat-seller who sparks no local outbreaks, but who instead travels down the Sangha and Congo rivers, across 650 miles and two national boundaries, and delivers the virus to Leopoldville, where they believe the AIDS pandemic was "spawned".
Others, however, might visualise Ptt chimpanzees being transported 1050 miles down the Sangha to Coquilhatville (Mbandaka) district, and up the Congo (again: two steamer journeys and two national boundaries), to arrive at the Laboratoire Medical de Stanleyville (LMS), or at nearby Lindi camp, where experiments with CHAT OPV were conducted in 400-odd chimps in the 1950s. These were mostly Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii (whose SIVs appear, thus far, less closely related to pandemic HIV-1). However, chimp purchases by LMS scientists apparently sparked an influx from downriver, and the sparse remaining records reveal one chimp from Coquilhatville, and one Ptt, at Lindi and the LMS. Co-caging and group-caging were routine at both places.
Hahn's new Ptt SIVs from Cameroon are closer to pandemic HIV-1 than previously-tested SIVs, but are hardly "dead ringers", as she claims. A likelier explanation for bridging the genetic gap between the viruses is recombination in vitro in Stanleyville between SIVs infecting tissue cultures (comprising chimpanzee cells and sera) used locally to prepare CHAT, or in vivo recombination - either in Lindi chimps, or CHAT vaccinees from 31 known African trials.
 B.F. Keele, B.H. Hahn et al., "Chimpanzee Reservoirs of Pandemic and Nonpandemic HIV-1", [Science Express: 10.1126/science.1126531]; P. M. Sharp, "Where AIDS Came From" [Webcast]; 13th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections; Denver, CO, USA; February 5-8th, 2006.
 F. Deinhardt, Lindi Databook, 1959. M.M. Vastesaeger et al.; "L'atherosclerose experimentale du chimpanze. Recherches preliminaires"; Acta Cardiol.; 1965; Supp. II; 283-297.
 "The Age of AIDS", PBS documentary, 2006. M. Carmichael, "How it began: HIV before the age of AIDS"; PBS web-site: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/aids/virus/origins.html.
 "The Origins of AIDS"; MFP/Galafilm documentary, 2004. E. Hooper, "The source of pandemic AIDS? Beatrice Hahn's latest SIV sequences from Cameroonian chimps: an alternative interpretation".
[NB. The latter essay was an early version of "The Hollywooding of Science".]
Polio vaccines and the origin of AIDS
which in turn is part of Brian Martin's website on suppression of dissent.