Egos, trials and nobel prizes
In light of the recent polio vaccination campaign in Africa, Christian Schopflin takes a look at the origins of the vaccine
We come across the two vaccines Sabin and Salk during our paediatric firms. But other than lending their names to the poliomyelitis section in textbooks, Albert Sabin and Jonas Salk are otherwise unknown.
Polio was never a big killer, but the evil of this disease was its ability to disappear and reappear every summer and autumn. It predominately affected children, hence the name “infantile paralysis,” and although seldom fatal, the condition often caused paralysis and disability.
In 1908, Karl Landsteiner first explained polio's mysterious pattern of occurrence. By feeding monkeys tissue from the spinal cord of people with polio Landsteiner was able to show that polio occurred in nervous tissue and spread via the oral route.1 Polio was soon shown to be a viral disease. In 1935, after earlier failing experiments, scientists had little doubt that a vaccine was the only real hope.
Doctors Albert Sabin and Jonas Salk were