Monday, May 17, 2010

1987: Smallpox vaccine caused AIDS -- 2010: Lack of smallpox vaccine increased AIDS

The London Times - May 11, 1987

The BBC, 2010: Smallpox demise linked to spread of HIV infection.  Both (directly opposed) conclusions came from studying the same phenomenon:  smallpox vaccinations used widely in Africa in the mid 1970s, followed by an explosion of AIDS a few years later.

Smallpox vaccinations followed a 'ring' strategy, vaccinating everyone in the areas around new cases.  It was often these very same areas where HIV erupted a few years later.  So many of those who developed AIDS had, in fact, received smallpox vaccine.

This is a powerful, live vaccine that provides at least partial lifelong immunity.  It is not like flu vaccine, whose immunity wanes in several months.  Back when the smallpox campaign was active, most Africans had not been receiving any routine smallpox vaccinations prior to the campaign.  And dirty needles were an ongoing problem.  [I myself received a smallpox booster in 1972 in Nigeria, from a glass needle sterilized by sitting in a bowl of alcohol.  Luckily I can still tell the tale.--Nass]

Smallpox vaccine may improve the ability of immune cells to fight the HIV virus.  Regardless, the epidemiological fact is that many cases followed vaccination within a short span of years.


Seattle Reader said...

Is there no study that can compare the percentage of AIDS cases among immunized versus non-immunized persons who had HIV following the period of smallpox immunization? The times article seems to present an interesting scenario, was there no way to test the hypothesis? This is not a rhetorical question -- I am a lay reader who would like to know. As to the 2010 BBC article, this seems to have been a test done on blood cells only, and comes with these two statements, astonishing in that they appear in the same article: 1) "It is too early to recommend smallpox vaccine for fighting HIV", and 2) "The smallpox vaccine appeared to cut HIV replication five-fold." Why would there not be immediate testing of the smallpox vaccine's effect on live HIV patients, following statement number 2? Again, not a rhetorical question. Can anyone enlighten me?

Anonymous said...

Well my question is how many people had the presence of HIV before receiving the smallpox vaccine, and was monkey blood used in this vaccine ?

Regarding whether smallpox can help eliminate HIV in the body, that was up for discussion back in the 1980's.

Meryl Nass, M.D. said...

Monkey were used to produce oral polio vaccines, and these were used in Africa during the late 1950s/early 1960s. See the book The River by Edward Hooper, which discusses in great detail the epidemiollogy of these vaccinations and later HIV infections.

Smallpox vaccine virus in the US was grown on calves' bellies in the US. However, the worldwide smallpox vaccine program of the 1970s used vaccine made in many different countries, so I cannot vouch for which animals were used.

I am not aware of studies looking at vaccinated vs unvaccinated persons and rates of HIV, but those data would be very interesting.