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