Polio vaccines, SV40 and human tumours, an update on false positive and false negative results

Developments in Biologicals. 2006;123:109-17; discussion 119-32. [Link]

Elmishad AG, Bocchetta M, Pass HI, Carbone M.

Loyola University Medical Center, Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, Department of Pathology, Maywood, IL 60153, USA.


Simian virus 40 (SV40) has been detected in different human tumours in numerous laboratories. The detection of SV40 in human tumours has been linked to the administration of SV40-contaminated polio vaccines from 1954 until 1963. Many of these reports linked SV40 to human mesothelioma. Some studies have failed to detect SV40 in human tumours and this has caused a controversy. Here we review the current literature. Moreover, we present evidence showing how differences in the sensitivities of methodologies can lead to a very different interpretation of the same study. The same 20 mesothelioma specimens all tested negative, 2/20 tested positive or 7/20 tested positive for SV40 Tag by simply changing the detection method on the same immuno-precipitation/western blot membranes. These results provide a simple explanation for some of the apparent discordant results reported in the literature.