The Invisible Tyrants
A Brief History of the H.I.V. Virus
February 27th, 1994
Supposedly 1.6 million years have passed since the earliest human like ancestors. 250,000 years since the earliest Homo Sapiens and 1962 years since Jesus Christ was executed. Although not everyone agrees on whether the existence of Christ is true or not, that is what the standard calendar defining days and time is based upon and that is the way we deal economically and politically worldwide.
Millions of years have passed, civilizations have appeared and disappeared, we have had harmonious as well as destructive societies and fought for the evil and the good. Dictators have come and gone and missions out of this world have been accomplished, from walks on the moon to the launch of dozens of satellites scattered throughout the universe.
We call it progress, evolution, intellectual advancement. Although in some parts of the world we still have wars being fought and dictators in power, there are other societies which consider themselves at the peak of evolution and progress, these societies are part of the first world and western civilization. They are able to create state of the art automobiles, luxurious homes, efficient and organized industries, automated and complex computerized machinery and atomic weapons. Most of these humans are governed by a democratic system and a belief of freedom. This first world like the third world is also populated by Dictators with the only difference that they are special, unseen a naked eyes, they are invisible and invincible.
These invisible tyrants are called microorganisms. Underdeveloped countries as well as “developed” countries are at the mercy of the invisible tyrants which come in the form of: Viruses, Bacteria, Fungi and Parasites. The most dangerous of these is the Virus, some with limited powers such as the flu is able of enslaving humans to a week or two of soreness, stuffy nose and may lead up to minor bronchial complication.
Then there is a more controlling, severe, non-discriminating, merciless tyrant with enormous corrupting influences infiltrate all of civilization rising mountains of sorrow and oceans of pain It’s not just submicroscopic pathogens consisting of a particle of nucleic acid enclosed in proteins and able to replicate only within a living cell. It’s more complex and responsible for the enormous chaos and fear in the world today, bringing outward the basic faults of us humans, placing in the light our lack of awareness and abundance of ignorance.
This complex and confusing Dictator, king of all tyrants is called Human, Immunodeficiency, Virus or H.I.V. The H.I.V. it’s not just a virus, it’s a retrovirus and one of the few retroviruses found in humans. Retroviruses are commonly identified in many animal species but in Humans H.I.V. or it’s variants such as HTLV I, HTLV II, HTLV III are found. The only way this virus can be transmitted is through blood, semen and vaginal secretions.
H.I.V. is a retrovirus of the Lentivirus group and is the etiologic agent of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). Briefly AIDS was first recognized as a disease syndrome in 1981 and HIV was identified as its cause in 1984. Coincidentally viruses isolated by a French researcher Dr. Montgnier as (Lymphadenopathy-Associated Virus LAV) and by Dr. Gallo (HILV-III) and Levy (AIDS Related Retrovirus ARV) in the United States, they were all found to be identical and to be associated with AIDS.
The virus is now known universally as HIV, its antibodies were found in serum drawn in parts of Africa in the early 1970 leading most investigators to believe that the disease originated in Africa and spread to the Caribbean and then to the United States, furthermore two strains of HIV have been identified, HIV-1 which is predominant isolate in clinical AIDS and found in central Africa and other regions in the world and HIV-2 which is generally limited to west and central Africa and has not demonstrated the virulence of HIV-1.
In trying to assess its origin let’s take a look at the following possibility. AIDS first appeared in Equatorial Africa, the earliest evidence of its presence on the African Continent dates from a plasma sample drawn in 1959 in what was then Leopoldville, the Belgian Congo and is now Kinshasa, Zaire. The timing seems right, a process called genetic sequencing which tracks the evolution of a virus by measuring genetic changes, can read the molecular history of a disease.
According to Gerald Myers, the Federal Government chief expert in genetic sequencing, HIV dates from about 1960, assuming it arose from a single common ancestor. Now knowing the approximate time the HIV virus came into existence in Humans let us take a look at what was going on in Medical History during 1932 – 1960.
Between 1932 and 1950 Dr. Koprowski, Dr. Salk and Dr. Sabin were separately doing their initial developments for the Polio vaccine. The one two punch of the “Polio Shots” was developed by Dr. Jonas Salk and later between 1961-62 Dr. Albert Sabin developed the oral vaccine which effectively eradicated Polio in developed countries and in much of the third World. All of these so called Pioneers of Medicine were trying to produce the winning vaccine in an effort to save the world from Paralytic Poliomyelitis which in the U.S.A. alone was strucking and average of 22,000 people yearly and young children in particular.
The one definitely devoted to produce the winning Polio vaccine was Dr. Koprowski. He was the one that officially tested the first polio vaccine on Humans as he did announce in a meeting of Polio Researchers sponsored by the March of Dimes in March of 1951. This live oral vaccine he first developed by growing the virus in chicken eggs and passed it through rat brains in order to select weakened strains and nurture the virus.
In taking a look in the ways Koprowski live weakened vaccine was first tested on Humans we will notice a gross amount of insensitivity and immorality demonstrated by first testing a group of about twenty mentally deficient children who lived in Letchworth Village, a facility operated by the New York State Department of Mental Health and than by testing his vaccine on the newborn babies of Institutionalized women in New Jersey. All of these test vaccines were supposedly administered to “Volunteers”, and I do find it hard to believe that mentally deficient kids and newborn babies especially during those times had much of a choice or the capability of choosing. Koprowski big test came later in 1956, where a great number of children were vaccinated in Belfast, Ireland. There some reported that his tamed oral vaccine had reverted to its wild paralytic form and since these reports were not confirmed nor properly followed up, we assume that no one was affected in such a way by the vaccine. Koprowski naturally insisted that no one ever would have been affected in such a way but the Authorities in Belfast feared that a new polio epidemic would arise from the testing and therefore stopped it.
After the Fiasco in Belfast Koprowski left Laderle Laboratories to direct Philadelphia’s Wistar Institute but he held firmly to the goal of becoming the Savior of Humanity from this persistent invisible tyrant. In 1956 he was back in the lab working on the testing of his vaccine but this time the test site would be the Belgian Congo (now Kisagani, Zaire). Before engaging in this massive test he was challenged by the World Health Organization to which he paid no attention since he had full support of the Belgian Authorities. In preparing this vaccine Koprowski had stopped growing the virus in developing embryos of chicken eggs and began growing the cultures in minced-up monkey’s kidney.
Why the switch ?
The reasons that could have contributed to Koprowski’s change are:
1. A way of facilitating growth therefore increasing production.
2. The Fiasco in Ireland might have convinced him to change the host for the growth of the virus.
3. Other Pioneers in Medical Research began using monkey’s kidney to host cultures of the virus therefore influencing this
change in his research.
Are there more complex reasons for this switch ?
Maybe there are, but knowledgeably at the time all of the Medical Profession involved in research knew of the innumerable monkey viruses and of the problems posed with its studies or the use of such for virus cultures.
However once Koprowski had created the vaccine using these monkey’s kidneys as its host he developed the spray method (liquid vaccine squirted into the mouth), nearly 250,000 Africans were inoculated in six weeks and later another 75,000 children in Leopoldville, now Kinshasa were vaccinated. In regards of the European children living in the areas mentioned, they were administered the vaccine in capsule form, possibly a significant variation.
The legacy between these events and the AIDS epidemic begins when we find that a natural host for a virus similar to HIV is the African Green monkey and it is called SIV (Simian Immunodeficency Virus). Some versions of SIV are only 40% similar in genetic structure to the chief AIDS causing virus HIV-1, other versions of SIV monkey virus are virtually indistinguishable from some human variants of HIV-2, the second virus that causes AIDS in Humans and mainly afflicts western Africa.
The majority of the researchers involved in the Koprowski Congo Project are now dead and the few that are alive, supposedly do not remember what kind of monkey kidney were used in between 1957 to 1960. Koprowski still remains at the Wistar Institute at Philadelphia and he is not sure which type of monkey was used and says that he cannot find a single document describing which species was used to make his vaccine.
Please also note that the only other species which is not contaminated by SIV is the Rhesus macaques which India restricted its export due to the widespread slaughter in 1955.
Moreover in 1991 Researcher Robert C. Bohannon requested samples of Koprowski’s, Salk’s and Sabin’s seed stock (frozen cultures) to check for contaminating monkey viruses, they were all given for the exception of Koprowski’s seed stock to which he has not responded to this date. In regards to an investigation from the Food and Drug Administration they have had very limited success.
I can still remember the time I was vaccinated for polio, it was fun since we wasted two to three hours in the recreational rooms of this old Catholic grama school in Italy. I had no idea of what it was preventing although I would randomly see kids and adults with their limbs, a leg or an arm grossly smaller than normal and my uncle who would come to visit my home would drag along his deformed foot and would leave me there wondering what had happened to it since no one would talk about it. I was lucky since in 1961 and 1962 America and the rest of the world including myself were vaccinated with Dr. Sabin vaccine, which was also cultured using monkey’s kidneys as its host, with the only difference that they were Asian Rhesus monkeys imported from India and of course prepared before the restriction was imposed in 1955.
These monkeys were too infected with other viruses, as for example the SV40 virus, which presented some troubles but these problems were mainly resolved by 1961.The important factor is that they did not have any presence of SIV as noted in the recent seed stock testing. In 1962 several AIDS cases originated in Zaire and some scientists believe AIDS radiates outward in Africa from Zaire.
Then suddenly in 1980 a new fatal disease later identified as AIDS begins to appear among American Homosexual men. Do we have enough information to assess the origin of this Disease, maybe we do maybe we don’t.
Was a video tape of a brutal beating enough to assess the excess force used by some of the members of the LAPD ?
Should we hold Koprowsky responsible for the origin of AIDS or at least as an accessory to its origin ?
Personally I can’t place such a judgment on Koprowsky due to the complexity of the subject, the amount and validity of the information available and the lack of medical expertise.
I would like to point out that a more detailed and complete investigation is needed and that the possibilities of the HIV virus originating in Koprowski’s using SIV infected cultures are high . Koprowsky definitely shows an incredible desire to secure a place in the Medicine Hall of Fame, from the way he initially used mentally deficient kids as guinea pigs for the purpose of accelerating the fine tuning of his vaccine. His way of not responding to the World Health Organization when challenged and his neglect to release the frozen cultures, leave me perplexed and confused.
Another important piece of information is that Dr. Sabin in 1959 reported in the British Medical Journal that in a test he performed on Koprowski vaccine used in the Belgian Congo trials, was revealed the presence of an unidentified cell-killing virus, which Koprowsky totally disqualifies since two other labs examined his vaccine and found nothing knowing that Sabin’s results were gotten through a special test he had devised since he was the expert and was working with monkeys since 1932.
Could such a mistake or lack of consideration and non acceptance of other colleagues advises be our last sin of human Ego possibly responsible for the 15,000,000 people that will be terminally infected with AIDS in this world by the year 2000 ?
An enormous lack of awareness and denial is now present, not just in our American society but moreover in countries of the Eastern block as well as in the Indian and African continents.
We can very well disqualify this disease as being an Homosexual disease since throughout the world is mainly present in the Heterosexual community and the only reasons that is prevalent in the Homosexual community is due to the mode of transmission which homosexual behavior drastically increases.
Our problems with this disease are manly of stigmatization and discrimination, some people say education is also a problem but I think that the infrastructure of our educational system is extremely valid and far better than other countries it is perhaps the flow of this information that could be enhanced in order to make more people aware of these facts and therefore decrease the amount of stigmatization and discrimination caused by the poor flow of it. These problems do not surpass the problems of poor health care, education and prevention which are experienced by the rest of the world. For example in Calcutta, Budapest or Nairobi condoms are not easily accessible of affordable as they are in Los Angeles.
This Invisible Tyrant is so dominant and strong to make us change the basic values of Make Love not War, now twisted in an anxious cry of Make Love and Die. It is sad that this time in our generation is bringing about the true evils of our basic human nature which has been for so long hidden in the political dust caused by this fast, accomplishing and progressive machine called modern society. These evils will cause a great deal of pain and sorrow, let’s not go around preaching that homosexuals are to blame nor anyone else.
Reason and evaluate the true math of the facts and adapt to a way of life in order to minimize further casualties.
Declare war on HIV, be smarter than it is, educate and prevent and let us not waste time on stigmatizing nor discriminating, we are already doing plenty of it in other fields. Moral awareness should also be increased in an effort to have better use of the education we possess. Doctors with endless knowledge and years in medical school, to this date they refuse to treat HIV positive and AIDS patients as reported in recent surveys 5% of the medical profession are treating 90% of AIDS patients.
I could continue to write endlessly in regards to all the different facets of this unworthy diamond but for the reader’s sake since this is not a book I must bring it to a conclusion.
In lue from the information learned from this class and the listed bibliography, the chances to find cures for retroviruses and especially for the HIV virus are less likely to come about than it is for the virus itself evolving to a less virulent non deadly form. Since the HIV virus exploits each host’s DNA, every virus will have a different genetic brake down and therefore making it difficult for researchers to have an history on the virus itself. It reminds me of a movie “The Body Snatchers”, once presented by The Twilight Zone, you’ll never know who the body snatcher really is until the body has been snatched and than is half body half snatcher.
All microorganisms and organisms go through evolution and therefore mutation, the hope is that it will mutate to a less virulent state to eventually coexist silently with humans as SIV does with African green monkeys.
In the meantime let’s develop more effective drugs in an effort to further prolong the lives of the people already affected by this syndrome and although the chances for a cure is scarce never give up.
This class has been extremely helpful in dealing not only with the AIDS epidemic but also gave me some type of preparation in the confronting social crisis it brings an will increasingly bring about. It is my duty to pass along everything I have learned, to my family, friends and just about anyone I will come in contact with, in an effort to educate and elevate their level of awareness to a new survival standard.
Since a few weeks ago I was not aware of it and ignorant of it.
Tom Curtis. Rolling Stone Magazine, March 19th, 1992 pg 54.
David T. Kingsbury, and Gerald E. Wagner. The National Medical
Series for Independent Study. Microbiology.
Publisher: John Wiley ; Son, Inc. 1990.