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Polio vaccine developed

Polio vaccine developed

Although it had long been suspected that polio was an infectious disease, definitive proof only came in 1908, when Dr Karl Landsteiner and Dr Erwin PopperANCHOR managed to induce polio in monkeys by injecting them with extracts of the spinal cord of a boy who had died from polio. The disease could then be transmitted from monkey to monkey, providing an invaluable model of the disease. Eventually, it was possible to transfer a strain of the virus to the rat and to the mouse, which could be used in sufficient numbers to establish the existence and virulence of the polio virus.

Development of the polio vaccine
Towards a total elimination of polio
References

Development of the polio vaccine

 Dr John Enders and his colleaguesANCHOR in the 1940s showed that polio virus could be grown in human tissue, and this breakthrough was rightly awarded the Nobel Prize in 1954. Even in the 1940s, the virus was too small to be seen with any available technique, so there was only one way that Dr Enders could check that he had in fact extracted the virus from mouse brain tissue and grown it in culture. This was by injecting the culture fluid into mice and monkeys, where it produced paralysis typical of polio.

About 40 years of research using monkeys, rats and mice led directly to the introduction of the Salk and Sabin polio vaccines in the 1950s. Professor Albert Sabin's 1956 paper in the Journal of the American Medical Association stated:ANCHOR

"approximately 9,000 monkeys, 150 chimpanzees and 133 human volunteers have been used thus far in the quantitative studies of various characteristics of different strains of polio virus. [These studies] were necessary to solve many problems before an oral polio vaccine could become a reality."

Towards a total elimination of polio

Polio is now virtually unknown in the USA and Europe. The World Health Organisation initiated a worldwide polio vaccination programme in 1998 with the aim of totally eradicating the disease. UNICEF calculated in 1991 that this has already prevented over 2 million cases of polio.ANCHOR

By 2002 the number of cases had fallen to just 480 per year, compared with 350,000 when the vaccination programme started in 1988. The WHO says that eradicating the disease and ending the vaccination, which they aim to do by the end of 2000, will save the world $1.5 billion a year.ANCHOR


References

  1. Landsteiner K & Popper E (1908) Wien klin Wschr 21, 1830
  2. Enders J, Weller T & Robbins F (1949) Science 109, 85
  3. Sabin AB (1956) JAMA 162 , 1589
  4. The State of the World's Children, 1991, UNICEF, OUP
  5. Anon (2000) WHO pushes ahead with drive to eradicate polio Nature 403, 127

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