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Bulletin of the World Health Organization

Print version ISSN 0042-9686

Bull World Health Organ vol.79 n.6 Genebra Jan. 2001 

In Brief

Polio vaccine not HIV source, four studies show

Findings of four studies reported at the end of April — three in the journal Nature, one in Science — strongly refute a much-publicised theory that the first cases of AIDS resulted from African trials of an oral polio vaccine supposedly contaminated with the chimpanzee variety of HIV (SIVcpz). British writer Edward Hooper elaborated on the theory at length in his 1999 book, The River. Three of the new studies found neither chimpanzee DNA nor genetic material from HIV or SIVcpz in samples of the vaccine used in the trials, as would be expected if the theory was correct. The fourth study suggested that HIV was present in humans long before the vaccine field trials. Put together, these new studies show that the oral polio vaccine was not the source of AIDS. For more information see pp. 1045, 1046 and 1047 in Nature, 26 April, 2001 and p. 743 in Science, 27 April 2001.

And MMR vaccine not a source of autism, US panel says

A 15-member immunization safety review committee convened by the US Institute of Medicine concluded in a report released on 23 April that there is no causal relationship between the measles-mumps-rubella combination vaccine and autism, and ‘‘no proven biological mechanisms that would explain such a relationship’’. Other leading health groups, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, WHO and British health authorities (see News story in the Bulletin, p. 272, vol. 79, March 2001), have come to much the same conclusion. An MMR-autism link was first mooted in a study published in 1998 in The Lancet. Details from

Petroleum funds to fuel malaria research

ExxonMobil announced in mid-April its support for three malaria initiatives — the Harvard Malaria Initiative (HMI), the Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV) and the WHO-spearheaded Roll Back Malaria (RBM) programme. The petroleum and petrochemical company is donating US$ 1 million to the HMI, a Harvard School of Public Health initiative focusing on basic research for antimalarial drugs and vaccines, and US$ 300 000 to the MMV, a non-profit foundation that coordinates antimalarial drug development. A further, as yet unspecified, amount will go to RBM to support its antimalarial activities in five African countries — Angola, Cameroon, Chad, Equatorial Guinea and Nigeria — where ExxonMobil operates. For further information, visit these Web sites:,,, and

Malaria researchers note: parasite genome now on Web

PlasmoDB, an Internet-based database allowing genomic analysis of Plasmodium falciparum, the cause of the most lethal form of malaria, is now available at, two US research teams at the University of Pennsylvania announced in April. The database owes a lot to sequencing work conducted at two US institutions, the Institute for Genomic Research and the Naval Medical Research Center at Stanford University, and to the UK’s Sanger Centre.

First guidelines out for tackling deadly lung disease

The US National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, together with WHO, issued in April the first international guidelines on diagnosing, treating and preventing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The guidelines were drawn up by the Global initiative for chronic obstructive lung disease, or GOLD, a team of COPD experts from more than 100 countries. Although it is the fourth leading cause of death in the world, COPD has failed to attract the attention it deserves from the international health care community and from governments, says GOLD chair Professor Romain Pauwels. For more information and a copy of the guidelines contact Dr Nikolai Khaltaev (