Koprowski (1992): “There is no vaccine stored at the Wistar Institute”

Commentary by Billi Goldberg, 11 October 2000

At the 11-12 September 2000 Royal Society meeting on the “Origins of HIV and the AIDS Epidemic,” much “hue and cry” was made concerning the test results of the “so-called” Wistar polio vaccine samples used in the African Congo mass immunizations in the late 1950s.

In the various excerpts from major scientific and media outlets shown below, it is clearly stated that testing of the polio vaccine samples by three independent laboratories were negative for SIV/HIV and negative for chimpanzee cells.

Preciseness of language is a critical component of accurate scientific research, reporting, and publishing especially in major journals such as Nature, Science, and Lancet.

In a 21 August 1992 letter to Science, former Wistar Director Hilary Koprowski takes Rolling Stone author Tom Curtis to task for his impreciseness: “Curtis does not distinguish between lots of vaccines and seed lots of virus.” (Science 1992, 257:1024-1026)

Then, in a brilliantly lucid and clear statement, Koprowski states: “There is no vaccine stored at the Wistar Institute, but there are a few vials of tissue culture supernatants available that may represent seed lots used for production of vaccines in the years 1957 to 1959.”

Koprowski’s “may represent seed lots” is a long reach from seed lots that were actually used for the production of the Congo polio vaccines.

What, then, was tested by the three independent laboratories if no samples of the Congo polio vaccine were available at the Wistar Institute?

Of course, there is always the possibility that the Wistar Institute found stored samples of the vaccine that Dr. Koprowski knew nothing about, but that would be highly speculative considering that they did not exist in 1992.

Unlike Curtis, is hard to imagine that Dr. Clayton Buck and Dr. Claudio Basilico would not know the difference between vaccine and seed lots.

In a 11 September 2000 press release from the Wistar Institute titled “No AIDS-related viruses or chimpanzee DNA found in 1950’s-era polio vaccine” issued under the auspices of Dr. Clayton Buck, acting director of The Wistar Institute, it is stated: “Tests performed by three independent laboratories on 1950s-era polio vaccine samples from The Wistar Institute, Philadelphia, PA, failed to find any traces of SIV, HIV-1, or DNA indicating that chimpanzee cells were used to prepare the vaccine, according to the scientist who coordinated the testing. Dr. Claudio Basilico, chairman of microbiology at New York University Medical Center and head of Wistar’s external AIDS/Poliovirus Advisory Committee, announced the findings today at a Royal Society meeting in London entitled “Origins of HIV and the AIDS Epidemic.” (

In a 12 September 2000 Washington Post article titled “Tests Fail to Show Link Between HIV, Polio Vaccine,” T.R. Reid stated: “Claudio Basilico of the New York University School of Medicine told a seminar at London’s Royal Society that a study of seven samples of an oral polio vaccine used widely in Africa four decades ago showed no evidence of either human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which causes AIDS, or its animal-world variants.”

In a 12 September 2000 Guardian (UK) article titled “New row over origin of Aids virus,” James Meek stated: “But Mr Hooper’s opponents were also triumphant yesterday, pointing to results from tests on an archived sample of the vaccine which showed that it contained no trace of DNA from either a chimp or an HIV-type virus.”

In a 14 September 2000 Nature editorial titled “Time for a truce?”, is it stated: “Similarly entrenched positions greeted the news that samples of Wistar vaccines dating from the period were produced using monkey, not chimp, tissue, and are not contaminated with the virus.”

In a 14 September 2000 Nature article titled “Tests fail to support claims for origin of AIDS in polio vaccine,” by David Dickson, it is stated: “Tests on samples of the vaccine, in storage for over 40 years, have shown no trace of HIV or its primate antecedent SIV.”

In a 15 September 2000 Science article titled “Vaccine Theory of AIDS Origins Disputed at Royal Society,” Jon Cohen stated: “The theory took a hit when researchers revealed that tests of old samples of the vaccine provided no supporting evidence, and the main proponent of the theory, British writer Edward Hooper, endured a verbal battering himself from several prominent scientists.”

In a 16 September 2000 Lancet article titled “New data challenge OPV theory of AIDS origin,” editor Richard Horton stated: “Basilico reported findings from three independent laboratories, which revealed not only that old samples of OPV used in the former Belgian Congo during the late 1950s contained neither SIV nor HIV but also that the substrates on which they were made were monkey not chimpanzee cells.”

In a 17 September 2000 Philadelphia Inquirer article titled “AIDS theory logical, yet likely wrong,” Huntley Collins stated: “If that were not enough, tests conducted on the last remaining vials of polio vaccine used in Congo – announced by the Wistar Institute last Monday – found no HIV or SIV in the samples.”