Serological evidence of SV40 infections in HIV-infected and HIV-negative adults

J Med Virol. 1998 Apr;54(4):276-84. doi: 10.1002/(sici)1096-9071(199804)54:4<276::aid-jmv7>;2-1.


SV40 is a simian polyomavirus that was a contaminant of some viral vaccines administered to people between 1955 and 1962. SV40 DNA has recently been found associated with several types of human tumors, suggesting that the virus is present in humans. We examined sera from patients infected with human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) as well as from HIV-1-negative controls to determine the prevalence of SV40 neutralizing antibodies using a specific plaque reduction assay. We found that 16.1% of HIV-infected patients (n = 236) were seropositive for SV40, as compared to 12.0% of HIV-negative control volunteers (n = 108) and 11.1% of HIV-negative patients (n = 72). These differences were not statistically significant. As individuals born between 1941 and 1962 had the highest chance of having received SV40-contaminated poliovaccines, we analyzed SV40 seropositivity rates based on year of birth. SV40 antibody rates for HIV-infected patients born before 1941, between 1941 and 1962, and after 1962 were 17.1%, 16.3%, and 11.8%, respectively. For the HIV-negative subjects, the rates were 12.5%, 12.0%, and 9.7%, respectively. There was no correlation between SV40 seropositivity and either the stage of disease in HIV-infected patients or the race/ethnicity. Also, there was no correlation between the presence of SV40 neutralizing antibody and the titer of neutralizing antibody to human polyomavirus BKV. The SV40 seropositivity rates in the patients born between 1941 and 1962 may be explained by the likelihood of those individuals having received SV40-contaminated vaccines, but the detection of SV40 neutralizing antibody in individuals born after 1962 (with no risk of having received contaminated vaccines) is significant. Although cross-reactive antibodies might theoretically contribute to the observed reactivities, these results suggest that SV40 neutralizing antibodies are present in certain individuals and raise the possibility that SV40 continues to infect humans long after vaccines were freed from contamination.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • AIDS-Related Opportunistic Infections / virology
  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Aged
  • Antibodies, Viral / immunology*
  • Antigens, Viral / analysis*
  • HIV Seronegativity* / immunology
  • HIV Seropositivity / immunology
  • HIV Seropositivity / virology*
  • HIV-1 / immunology
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Polyomavirus Infections / epidemiology
  • Polyomavirus Infections / ethnology
  • Polyomavirus Infections / immunology*
  • Simian virus 40 / immunology*
  • Simian virus 40 / isolation & purification
  • Tumor Virus Infections / epidemiology
  • Tumor Virus Infections / ethnology
  • Tumor Virus Infections / immunology*


  • Antibodies, Viral
  • Antigens, Viral