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On "mad cows" and sick monkeys: From the people who brought you SV40 in vaccines....

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by Sandy Gottstein

Now that "mad cows" are once again in the news, the question on everyone's mind seems to be whether or not ingestion of an infected cow will result in the human form of mad cow disease, vCJD (variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease).  What isn't on many people's minds, or widely known, but probably should be, is the fact that vaccine cell cultures, the media in which vaccines are necessarily grown, are rife with animal diseases

Given that fetal and other bovine sera are routinely used in the production of vaccines, among the many diseases long known to contaminate vaccines have been those derived from cows. The fact that vaccines are usually injected as opposed to ingested raises alarming possibilities, although the significance of the route of transmission remains to be seen, as does the possible harm from use of products containing such contaminated animal cell cultures.

Our experience with the monkey virus SV40 should be particularly instructive, especially given our recently acquired understanding of the difficulties involved in clearly establishing the facts.

When SV40, a known hamster carcinogen, was discovered in the polio vaccine, rather than recall any remaining lots and risk undermining public confidence in vaccines, the "experts" in charge of ensuring vaccine safety decided to allow all existing stocks to be used.  While an iron-clad connection between SV40 and human cancers has not been made, evidence continues to mount that this decision was misguided at best.

Should we be worried about animal contamination of vaccinations, and, in particular, bovine viruses?  The inexcusable truth is that we don't know.  As we now understand because of our experience with SV40,  animal diseases can be transmitted to humans.  What kind of trouble such animal diseases are causing humans, even in the much-studied case of SV40, remains to be ultimately determined.  As noted in an article on bovine viral diarrhea virus (BVDV) contaminating hepatitis C virus vaccines (HCV), however, "In conclusion, most commercially available bovine sera are contaminated with BVDV and, although there is no evidence that the virus is infectious, bovine sera should be screened for this virus. .."

The absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.  We simply do not know if the virus can infect humans.  Shouldn't we know that?

Animal diseases continue to contaminate vaccines.  Given that SV40 may be causing cancer in humans, and other animal diseases may be wreaking havoc as well, it is imperative that these contaminants be eliminated from vaccine cell-cultures, notwithstanding the difficulty in doing so.  And in order to truly understand the risks vs. the benefits of vaccination, the consequences, past and present, of having allowed animal contaminants to populate our vaccines needs to be thoroughly investigated and factored into any vaccine benefit/risk equation.

Sandy Gottstein

Date: 1-2-2003          

"Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty." - Wendell Phillips (1811-1884), paraphrasing John Philpot Curran (1808)