Edition 1 MON 11 MAY 1987
Smallpox vaccine 'triggered Aids virus'
BY PEARCE WRIGHT, SCIENCE EDITOR
The Aids epidemic may have been triggered by the mass vaccination campaign which eradicated smallpox. The World Health Organization, which masterminded the 13-year campaign, is studying new scientific evidence suggesting that immunization with the smallpox vaccine Vaccinia awakened the unsuspected, dormant human immuno defence virus infection (HIV).
Some experts fear that in obliterating one disease, another disease was transformed from a minor endemic illness of the Third World into the current pandemic. While doctors now accept that Vaccinia can activate other viruses, they are divided about whether it was the main catalyst to the Aids epidemic.
But an adviser to WHO who disclosed the problem, told The Times: 'I thought it was just a coincidence until we studied the latest findings about the reactions which can be caused by Vaccinia. Now I believe the smallpox vaccine theory is the explanation to the explosion of Aids.' 'In obliterating one disease, another was transformed.'
Further evidence comes from the Walter Reed Army Medical Centre in Washington. While smallpox vaccine is no longer kept for public health purposes, new recruits to the American armed services are immunized as a precaution against possible biological warfare. Routine vaccination of a 19-year-old recruit was the trigger for stimulation of dormant HIV virus into Aids.
This discovery of how people with subclinical HIV infection are at risk of rapid development of Aids as a vaccine-induced disease was made by a medical team working with Dr Robert Redfield at Walter Reed. The recruit who developed Aids after vaccination had been healthy throughout high school. He was given multiple immunizations, followed by his first smallpox vaccination.
Two and a half weeks later he developed fever, headaches, neck stiffness and night sweats. Three weeks later he was admitted to Walter Reed suffering from meningitis and rapidly developed further symptoms of Aids and died after responding for a short time to treatment. There was no evidence that the recruit had been involved in any homosexual activity.
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