SV40: A Tragic But True Tale

SV40: What is it?

Simian Virus 40 (SV40) is a polyomavirus that infects both monkeys and humans. In monkeys, infection is generally asymptomatic or subclinical. However, during co-infection with Simian-Immunodeficiency Virus (SIV), SV40 acts similarly to human polyomaviruses, JC & BK virus, causing disease in the kidneys and brain. [1]

SV40: Why does this matter?

In 1960, Sv40 was discovered by Dr. Maurice Hilleman, unfortunately, as an inadvertent contaminant in polio vaccines [2]. During the same time period, Dr. Bernice Eddy learned SV40 had the potential to induce tumor formation in hamsters inoculated with the virus [3].By the time screening was readily available in 1963, over 100+ million vaccine doses had been given [4]. Still, recent studies show that many non-typeable (at the time) strains of SV40 persisted past the 14-day screening period, potentially infecting many more people [5]. Obviously, concern about Sv40 & cancer in humans grew. Initial studies found an association with many cancers, including NHL, mesothelioma, bone, brain, and prostate cancers [6][7][8][33]. However, larger epidemiological studies have shown, in most circumstances, that no overall association with cancers exists [9][10]. Yet, this may be confounded by geographical/manufacturing differences [32]. Also, it should be noted that some authors have stated conflicts of interest. Such as Shah, et al – whose acknowledgment in one study reads: “The author has served as a consultant to pharmaceutical companies and has been compensated for his time” [9].Without a doubt, the pharmaceutical industry has a vetted interest in showing that Sv40 doesn’t cause cancer (for obvious reasons). Take some time to look at the wealth of information out there and make your own conclusion. I merely picked a few studies to show how convoluted and contentious this topic is [34].

Dr. Maurice Hilleman makes some damning remarks during this uncensored interview, in the video below. Take a look for yourself. One thing of note, is how Dr. Hilleman mentions that there are 40+ other simian viruses in the original seed stocks! (i.e. SV40 was the 40th simian virus found). This could confound the results of studies above, so I thought it was worth mentioning. Finally, isn’t it crazy that all of these viruses were combined unintentionally in-vivo; what are the repercussions today and what kind of viruses where produced as a result of antigenic shifts?

“The interview was conducted by Dr. Edward Shorter, Professor of the History of Medicine and Professor of Psychiatry, University of Toronto. I checked the authenticity of the tape with Dr. Shorter who informed me that he did it when preparing a PBS series called “The Health Century.” Doubleday published a companion volume of the same title in 1987.”[35][36][37]

SV40: How did this happen?

SV40 is a ubiquitous virus found in various monkey species. During the production of polio vaccines, monkey kidney cells were used as the medium for poliovirus production. As a result, both the Salk and Sabin vaccines were tainted. Moreover, the formaldehyde used to kill poliovirus was ineffective against SV40. From 1955 onwards, polio vaccines were distributed throughout the world [11][12].

It’s also important to recognize that the production of viral seed stocks went through many passages of differing media. For example, the Sabin Poliovirus Serotype 3 was cultured through approximately 20 rhesus monkeys, 8 testicular tissue cultures, and 34 monkey kidney tissue cultures before finally arriving at Merck, Sharp, & Dohme in 1956 [23][24].


“Understanding Viruses” by Teri Shors

SV40: Whats going on now?

Unfortunately for us, many old techniques of vaccine production are still used today. For instance, MRC-5 is a human fetal fibroblast cell line first isolated in 1966 and still used in the production of many vaccines today, including MMR, Polio, Hep A, and Varicella [13][14][22]. Therefore, concern that some (un)known viruses are contaminating current vaccines that use the MRC-5 line or others is understandable [29][30][31]. In 2010, this was discovered to be true. Contamination of various vaccines from different manufacturers with Porcine Circovirus-1 (PCV1), Avian Leukosis Virus (ALV), & Simian Retrovirus (SRV) was confirmed by the FDA and an independent lab, though the FDA contends there is no risk to humans associated with these viruses [25][26][27][28]. Of concern, the FDA allows certain levels of detectable DNA, RNA, and endotoxins within vaccines. Worse, this is enforced via “non-binding recommendations” (SERIOUSLY?!) [15][16][17]. Although, the topic of another article, endotoxin levels are vitally important. In fact, its been noted that the differences in adverse reactions due to DTaP vs. DTwP is directly related to the decrease in endotoxins & antigens in the DTaP (acellular pertussis) vaccine [18]. Even so, endotoxin levels vary among vaccines and even individual lots [20]. Without much regulation, vaccine adverse reactions will continue to occur and sporadically [21][38]. This issue needs to be addressed.




[1] Kaliyaperumal, S., and Et Al. “Frequent Infection of Neurons by SV40 Virus in SIV-infected Macaque Monkeys with Progressive Multifocal Leukoencephalopathy and Meningoencephalitis.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. U.S. National Library of Medicine, 1 Dec. 2013. Web. 07 Nov. 2016. <;.

[2] Sweet, B. H.; Hilleman, M. R. (November 1960). “ç”. Proceedings of the Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine. Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine105 (2): 420–427.

[3] Eddy BE, Borman GS, Grubbs GE, Young RD (May 1962). “Identification of the oncogenic substance in rhesus monkey kidney cell culture as simian virus 40”. Virology17 (1): 65–75.

[4] Poulin, D. L.; Decaprio, J. A. (2006). “Is There a Role for SV40 in Human Cancer?”. Journal of Clinical Oncology24 (26): 4356–65.

[5] Rizzo, Paola; Di Resta, Ilaria; Powers, Amy; Ratner, Herbert; Carbone, Michele (1999). “Unique Strains of SV40 in Commercial Poliovaccines from 1955 Not Readily Identifiable with Current Testing for SV40 Infection”Cancer Research59 (24): 6103–8.

[6] Gazdar, AF; Butel, JS; Carbone, M (December 2002). “SV40 and human tumours: myth, association or causality?”. Nature reviews. Cancer2 (12): 957–64. doi:10.1038/nrc947PMID 12459734.

[7] Butel, JS, and Et Al. “Association between SV40 and Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2003. Web. 07 Nov. 2016. <;.

[8] Namiki, K; Goodison, S; Porvasnik, S; Allan, R. W.; Iczkowski, K. A.; Urbanek, C; Reyes, L; Sakamoto, N; Rosser, C. J. (1 September 2009). “Persistent exposure to Mycoplasma induces malignant transformation of human prostate cells”PLoS ONE4 (9): e6872. Bibcode:2009PLoSO…4.6872Ndoi:10.1371/journal.pone.0006872PMC 2730529Freely accessiblePMID 19721714

[9] Shah, KV (15 January 2007). “SV40 and human cancer: a review of recent data.”. International Journal of Cancer120 (2): 215–23. doi:10.1002/ijc.22425PMID 17131333.

[10] Carroll-Pankhurst, C; Engels, EA; Strickler, HD; Goedert, JJ; Wagner, J; Mortimer EA Jr. (Nov 2001). “Thirty-five year mortality following receipt of SV40- contaminated polio vaccine during the neonatal period.”Br J Cancer85 (9): 1295–7. doi:10.1054/bjoc.2001.2065PMID 11720463

[11] L. Garcea, Robert, and Et Al. “Robert L. Garcea.” Simian Virus 40 Infection of Humans. Journal of Virology, 01 May 2003. Web. 07 Nov. 2016. <;.