Did the Smallpox Vaccine Slow the Spread of HIV?

May 18, 2010 in Medicine by RangelMD

In a fascinating study, researchers tested their hypothesis (in vitro) that it was the smallpox vaccine that was somehow keeping the HIV infection in check and that the word wide emergence of HIV infection in the late 1970s and early 1980s was enhanced, in part, by the global cessation of small pox vaccination programs in this same time period.

The original vaccine is credited to the work of Edward Jenner in 1796 but it was not until the 1960s that world wide vaccination efforts were started. Mandatory vaccination efforts in the US ended in 1972, the last documented case of smallpox in the wild occurred in 1977 and in 1980 the World Health Organization declared smallpox to have been eradicated (in the wild). Vaccination efforts stopped soon after.

In this study, researchers took cell cultures from people who had received the smallpox vaccine within the preceding 3-6 months and cell cultures from un-vaccinated controls and exposed both to the HIV virus. The HIV virus reproduction rate was 5 times less in the sample from the vaccinated group.

Combined with the epidemiological concurrent data and the successful in vitro result of this study and we have a plausible hypothesis which places these researchers well ahead of the anti-MMR vaccine mobs.

And yet, this is far from proven. If there is an anti-HIV antibody induced by the smallpox vaccine or a anti-smallpox antibody that has an antigenic cross-over to HIV then this needs to be isolated and far bigger epidemiological analysis needs to be carried out to better characterize the link between vaccinations and HIV emergence and separate this variable from multiple other variables in the spread of HIV such as air travel and dangerous sexual practices.

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