The Coastal Post - June 1999

Did Transplanted Chimpanzee Testicles Start AIDS Epidemic in 1920s?

By Jim Scanlon

With the recently published research in "Nature: The International Weekly Journal of Science", that chimpanzees from Central Africa are the origin of HIV, the Human Immunodeficiency Virus that causes AIDS, speculation has once again arisen as to how this virus got into human bodies.

Ever since the epidemic began in the U.S. early 1980s mostly among gay white males and inner city black and brown intravenous drug users there has been speculation, some of it wild, as to how the virus got into humans.

There were theories that strange, bizarre African fertility ceremonies involving males being stimulated by the blood of the African Green Monkey were responsible. Sex with animals was also alluded to. Since this same monkey's kidneys were used in the production of vaccines, there was speculation that this was the start and the vaccination programs in Africa helped spread it widely.

One famous author even pinpointed the person responsible for the spread of AIDS in the United States to a French Canadian Flight Attendant. While others implicated sinister agents of US Biological Warfare Center in Fort Dietrict, Maryland who deliberate introduction a modified virus into the gay population. Black Muslim leaders favored a similar version deliberately introduced into the Black Community.

What was generally overlooked, or at least not emphasized unduly, was the role of transplanted tissue from one human being to another. Blood transfusions were certainly held responsible for thousands of cases of AIDS, hundreds of thousands of cases of hepatitis B and millions of cases of the now recognized Hepatitis C, which was then called Non-A, Non-B. Hemophiliacs as a group were devastated by contaminated clotting factors.

Thousands of children were infected with a fatal brain disease, Creutzfeldt-Jacob Disease from human growth hormone made from the pituitary glands of courses, British cattle were infected by Mad Cow Disease from enriched feed supplements made from dead rendered cows.

Blood and its refined constituents were and continue to be highly valuable commodity in a billion dollar health care industry with collection basically unsupervised and spread out over the world. Collections were made from the down and out, prisoners, alcoholics and drug addicts for small sums of money.

Transfusion of blood and the administration of drugs by injection, while quite safe in the US was not so safe in Third World countries.

Many scientists and others are now warning that the transplantation of animal parts (xenotransplants) into sick human beings to save their lives caries the potential for transferring virus from the cells of these animals into humans with unknown consequences. Just the other day permission was granted to use a part of a pig to replace a failed valve in a terminally ill boy. Cattle parts are similarly used.

On a molecular level, resistance is growing against using insecticide bacterial genes in plants to produce insect resistant crops. That is, the pesticide is built in. It is presumed that the consumer will not be hurt like the hapless worm eating the plant and that the Frankenstein Pollen will not "jump" into other crops or weeds.

To its credit the medical industry has now tightened controls and infections are very low, but what is not recognized is the extent that epidemics can be and are doctor, or hospital caused illness. That is to say industrial concerns, driven by the potential for enormous profits will open a "Pandora's Box" of horrors totally beyond our power to control" The drug company and the producer get the benefit, everyone else gets the problem

In Nature, Vol. 398, page 657, 22 April, 1999 appears a letter, "Did Parisians catch HIV from monkey glands?" referring to the famous research done by professor Serge Voronoff, professor of experimental surgery in Paris in the 1920s in which he used the testicles of executed criminals to restore virility in aging men.

As demand overtook the limited supply, Voronoff turned to using testicles from Chimpanzees which, due to their highly sexual way of life, are extremely large for their body size. These procedures were called "monkey gland" operations in the tabloid press.

Since France controlled an enormous part of Central Africa before World War II, it is entirely likely that HIV-1 was present in the transplanted tissue, and in this way, the virus entered Homo Sapiens, with consequences we face today.

This "theory" is definitely not new, and would have to explain how the virus "bounced" back to Africa and infected untold million of people in the last seventy years, so this theory doesn't make much sense except in a mythical sense.

What is does illustrate, is the extreme danger of mixing tissue from one species to another, of mixing genes from bacteria to food crops. We have enough trouble mixing tissue, such as blood, within our own species without using tissue from domestic animals.

The ancient Romans said, "Life Imitates Art". Thinking back at the Grade-B Science Fiction movies that I saw in which someone always seems to say to the mad scientist, "There are some things man should not meddle in," it seems that "Life imitates Grade-B movie Art."

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