Frontiers in Bioscience-Landmark (FBL) is published by IMR Press from Volume 26 Issue 5 (2021). Previous articles were published by another publisher on a subscription basis, and they are hosted by IMR Press on imrpress.com as a courtesy and upon agreement with Frontiers in Bioscience.
Academic Editor: Antonio Giordano
Simian virus 40 was discovered as a contaminant of early poliovirus vaccines that were inadvertently administered to millions of people in Europe and the United States between 1955 and 1963. Although SV40 was proven to be oncogenic in rodents and capable of transforming human and animal cells in vitro, its role in human cancer could not be proven epidemiologically. The matter was forgotten until 1993 when SV40 was accidentally found to cause mesotheliomas in hamsters injected intra-cardially. Subsequently, DNA sequences associated with its powerful oncogenic principal, the large T antigen, were found with high frequency in human pleural mesothelioma using the polymerase chain reaction (PCR). Since then many laboratories have confirmed the human findings. However, a few laboratories have failed to reproduce these data and the authors of the studies have claimed that the detection of SV40 DNA may simply represent PCR contamination artefacts. The controversy raised by this viewpoint is reviewed in this article together with a critical appraisal of the reliability of the molecular techniques used to detect SV40 DNA, in order to evaluate the potential aetiopathogenic role of SV40 in human mesothelioma.