The author’s response to customer’s comment on The River by Dr Claude Koprowski
(Reply concerning The River: A Journey to the Source of HIV and AIDS) Submitted to Amazon.com, early November 1999 (not published)
While Dr Claude Koprowski’s vigorous defence of his father, Dr Hilary Koprowski, is understandable, it is – unfortunately – littered with error and false assumptions.
He claims that I “lambast” Hilary Koprowski for no longer remembering the species of monkey he used to make CHAT vaccine back in the fifties. As pointed out by other customers quoted below, I have not lambasted anyone. What I have pointed out is that many scientists (including both my interviewees at the Wistar Institute) find it remarkable that this detail was not published at the time, that all papers relating to the episode seem to have disappeared, and that Dr Hilary Koprowski and his one-time colleagues seem to be uncertain about the monkey species used. Incidentally, it is intriguing that Claude Koprowski now seems to defend his father for no longer recalling the species. This is at odds with the fact that in mid-1992, a few months after the controversy first broke, Hilary Koprowski apparently resolved his uncertainty, for since then he has asserted that he used only the kidneys of Asian macaques, which cannot be infected with an HIV-1-like virus. Dr Koprowski is unable to support this assertion with any evidence.
Dr Koprowski junior also states that it is “unproven” that HIV appeared first in the parts of central Africa where the CHAT vaccine trials occurred in the fifties. In fact, very few scientists would dispute that the first documented appearances of HIV-1 and AIDS occurred in these areas – the question is rather whether this is mere coincidence, or whether there is a causal linkage to the vaccine feedings. However, as recorded on pages 740-747 of The River, the correlations are remarkable. 64% of the earliest (pre-1981) AIDS cases in Africa, and 87% of the earliest proven HIV-1-positive samples in Africa, come from the same towns and villages in which CHAT was fed four to twenty years earlier.
As I have explained in the book, different CHAT pools (and different lots and batches thereof) were administered in Poland and in Africa. Different batches were made in different substrates. This, I would propose, is why there was no early AIDS in Poland.
Most worryingly, Dr Claude Koprowski claims that I put words in the mouths of my sources. This I do not. I have cassette tapes which demonstrate that Tom Norton’s daughter told me about Koprowski’s rabies vaccine trial in Argentina. This was merely my first information about this episode. As detailed in the text, there are a host of references in both the scientific and the lay press (including a leader in the London Times) which document this episode, and the fact that the vaccine was neither licensed nor approved by the Argentinian government.
The paragraph about the Swedish vaccinations is an even clearer example of Claude Koprowski’s selective quotation and argument, for I dismissed any possible linkage between CHAT vaccination in Sweden and the death of David Carr, the “Manchester sailor”, two paragraphs after raising that hypothetical possibility – and proved that it was impossible later in the book.
In language very similar to that of his father, Claude Koprowski claims that the CHAT hypothesis is based on “prejudices and pseudo logic”, but merely demonstrates that these terms would be better applied to himself. Even the review he quotes (from Nature) was famously biased, in that the reviewer, John Moore, opposed the CHAT hypothesis by misrepresenting the arguments contained in The River. I have written to Nature to point out these errors; so, to my knowledge, have four leading scientists; to date, none of these letters has been published. It is worth noting that Moore’s boss, David Ho, has disassociated himself from the review, and that many other scientists have commented (to myself and to others) about its partisan approach. If Dr Claude Koprowski would like to read an even-handed review of the book, he should check out those which appeared in the Lancet and Nature Medicine.
One last point. Claude Koprowski hints “that it will be soon be proven that the origin of AIDS well preceded the origin of the polio vaccine”. I too, in the past week, have heard rumours about a serum sample from some years before the African CHAT trials which, it is claimed, contains an early HIV. However, from what I hear, there are very real doubts about the reliability of this claim. So, Dr Koprowski, let’s not leap to any conclusions. Let’s see the evidence first.
This applies not only to ancient serum samples, but also to remaining samples of CHAT poliovirus, CHAT polio vaccine, and documents relating to the vaccine and the African vaccinations. Let’s wait and see the evidence. Surely, Dr Koprowski, if you would wish to see your father cleared of what you call “character assassination by supposition”, you would not argue with this approach.