Biography: Jonas Salk Developer of Polio Vaccine Jonas Salk Date of birth: October 28, 1914 Jonas Salk Date of death: June 23, 1995 Back to Jonas Salk Biography In America in the 1950s, summertime was a time of fear and anxiety for many parents; this … by The American Academy of Achievement
In America in the 1950s, summertime was a time of fear and anxiety for many parents; this was the season when children by the thousands became infected with the crippling disease poliomyelitis, or polio. This burden of fear was lifted forever when it was announced that Dr. Jonas Salk had developed a vaccine against the disease. Salk became world-famous overnight, but his discovery was the result of many years of painstaking research.
Jonas Salk was born in New York City. His parents were Russian-Jewish immigrants who, although they themselves lacked formal education, were determined to see their children succeed, and encouraged them to study hard. Jonas Salk was the first member of his family to go to college. He entered the City College of New York intending to study law, but soon became intrigued by medical science.
While attending medical school at New York University, Salk was invited to spend a year researching influenza. The virus that causes flu had only recently been discovered and the young Salk was eager to learn if the virus could be deprived of its ability to infect, while still giving immunity to the illness. Salk succeeded in this attempt, which became the basis of his later work on polio.
After completing medical school and his internship, Salk returned to the study of influenza, the flu virus. World War II had begun, and public health experts feared a replay of the flu epidemic that had killed millions in the wake of the First World War. The development of vaccines controlled the spread of flu after the war and the epidemic of 1919 did not recur.
In 1947, Salk accepted an appointment to the University of Pittsburgh Medical School. While working there, with the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, Salk saw an opportunity to develop a vaccine against polio, and devoted himself to this work for the next eight years.
In 1955 Salk’s years of research paid off. Human trials of the polio vaccine effectively protected the subject from the polio virus. When news of the discovery was made public on April 12, 1955, Salk was hailed as a miracle worker. He further endeared himself to the public by refusing to patent the vaccine. He had no desire to profit personally from the discovery, but merely wished to see the vaccine disseminated as widely as possible.
Salk’s vaccine was composed of “killed” polio virus, which retained the ability to immunize without running the risk of infecting the patient. A few years later, a vaccine made from live polio virus was developed, which could be administered orally, while Salk’s vaccine required injection. Further, there was some evidence that the “killed” vaccine failed to completely immunize the patient. In the U.S., public health authorities elected to distribute the “live” oral vaccine instead of Salk’s. Tragically, the preparation of live virus infected some patients with the disease, rather than immunizing them. Since the introduction of the original vaccine, the few new cases of polio reported in the United States were probably caused by the “live” vaccine which was intended to prevent them.
In countries where Salk’s vaccine has remained in use, the disease has been virtually eradicated.
In 1963, Salk founded the Jonas Salk Institute for Biological Studies, an innovative center for medical and scientific research. Jonas Salk continued to conduct research and publish books, some written in collaboration with one or more of his sons, who are also medical scientists.
Salk’s published books include Man Unfolding (1972), The Survival of the Wisest(1973), World Population and Human Values: A New Reality (1981), and Anatomy of Reality (1983).
Dr. Salk’s last years were spent searching for a vaccine against AIDS. Jonas Salk died on June 23, 1995. He was 80 years old.
In the summer of 1950 fear gripped the residents of Wytheville, Virginia. Movie theaters shut down, baseball games were cancelled and panicky parents kept their children indoors — anything to keep them safe from an invisible invader. Outsiders sped t…
American Experience: The Polio Crusade
Airs Monday, April 12, 2010 at 9 p.m. on KPBS TV
Credit: March of Dimes
Above: Nurse and child with polio. This program is the story of the largest public health experiment in American history — the effort to eradicate polio, one of the 20th-century’s most dreaded diseases.
April 9, 2010
It was the largest public health experiment in American history – a crusade that eradicated polio, one of the 20th century’s most dreaded diseases. The polio epidemic terrified Americans for decades, affecting thousands of children, leaving many crippled, paralyzed or condemned to life in an iron lung.
In the mid-twentieth century, the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis (predecessor to today’s March of Dimes) pioneered a new approach to philanthropy, raising money a dime at a time from millions of small donors. The nonprofit enlisted poster children, celebrities, presidents, and other partners in their high-profile campaigns. View the photos.
But on April 26, 1954, hope emerged. At the Franklin Sherman Elementary School in McLean, Virginia, six-year-old Randy Kerr stood at the head of a long line of children and waited patiently while a nurse gently rolled up his sleeve, then filled a syringe with a cherry-colored liquid containing the world’s first polio vaccine.
Developed just a few years earlier by virologist Jonas Salk, the polio vaccine had not yet been widely tested on humans. No one was certain it was safe or whether it could provide effective protection against the disease. In the coming weeks, nearly two million school children in 44 states received the shots. The Salk vaccine trials were the dramatic culmination of years of research and a multi-million dollar investment, made up in large part by public donations.
Based in part on David Oshinsky’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book, “Polio: An American Story,” “The Polio Crusade” chronicles a decades-long crusade, fueled by the bold leadership of a single philanthropy and its innovative public relations campaign, and features a bitter battle between two scientists and the breakthrough of a now-forgotten woman researcher.
The 20th-century effort to eradicate polio is chronicled. Included: lawyer Basil O’Connor (1892-1972), who developed the “March of Dimes” concept to help fund research; the competition between polio researchers Jonas Salk and Albert Sabin.
|Poliomyelitis is a viral disease. There are three types of poliovirus and many strains of each type. The virus enters through the mouth and multiplies in the throat and gastrointestinal tract, then moves into the bloodstream and is carried to the central nervous system where it replicates and destroys the motor neuron cells. Motor neurons control the muscles for swallowing, circulation, respiration, and the trunk, arms, and legs.
Human nerve cells have a protruding protein structure on their surface whose precise function is unknown. When poliovirus encounters the nerve cells, the protruding receptors attach to the virus particle, and infection begins. Once inside the cell, the virus hijacks the cell’s assembly process, and makes thousands of copies of itself in hours. The virus kills the cell and then spreads to infect other cells.
|Many types of human cells have receptors that fit the poliovirus; no one knows why the virus favors motor neurons over other cells for replication.|
|For every 200 or so virus particles that encounter a susceptible cell, only one will successfully enter and replicate.|
|In tissue culture, poliovirus enters cells and replicates in six to eight hours, yielding 10,000 to 100,000 virus particles per cell.|
|One way the human immune system protects itself is by producingantibodies that engage the protein covering of the poliovirus, preventing the virus from interacting with another cell.|
|There are three types of poliovirus: 1, 2, and 3. Type 1 is the most virulent and common. Both the Salk and Sabin vaccines are “trivalent” that is, active against all three virus types. Type 2 poliovirus has not been detected anywhere in the world since 1999.|
|A person who gets polio is immune to future infection from the virus type that caused the polio.|
|These models are an adaptation of James Hogle’s image of the poliovirus and were specially cast in bronze for the exhibit. They are the first three dimensioanl representations of the poliovirus
Poliovirus Capsid Model and Scientific Art
A Vaccine to Prevent Polio
Life cycle of the poliovirus
Illustration courtesy NMAH
James Hogle in his Harvard Medical School lab, 2000
On this day in 1983, the Soviet Union releases a letter that Russian leader Yuri Andropov wrote to Samantha Smith, an American fifth-grader from Manchester, Maine, inviting her to visit his country. Andropov’s letter came in response to a note Smith had sent him in December 1982, asking if the Soviets were planning to start a nuclear war. At the time, the United States and Soviet Union were Cold War enemies.
President Ronald Reagan, a passionate anti-communist, had dubbed the Soviet Union the “evil empire” and called for massive increases in U.S. defense spending to meet the perceived Soviet threat. In his public relations duel with Reagan, known as the “Great Communicator,” Andropov, who had succeeded longtime Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev in 1982, assumed a folksy, almost grandfatherly approach that was incongruous with the negative image most Americans had of the Soviets.
Andropov’s letter said that Russian people wanted to “live in peace, to trade and cooperate with all our neighbors on the globe, no matter how close or far away they are, and, certainly, with such a great country as the United States of America.” In response to Smith’s question about whether the Soviet Union wished to prevent nuclear war, Andropov declared, “Yes, Samantha, we in the Soviet Union are endeavoring and doing everything so that there will be no war between our two countries, so that there will be no war at all on earth.” Andropov also complimented Smith, comparing her to the spunky character Becky Thatcher from “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” by Mark Twain.
Smith, born June 29, 1972, accepted Andropov’s invitation and flew to the Soviet Union with her parents for a visit. Afterward, she became an international celebrity and peace ambassador, making speeches, writing a book and even landing a role on an American television series. In February 1984, Yuri Andropov died from kidney failure and was succeeded by Konstantin Chernenko. The following year, in August 1985, Samantha Smith died tragically in a plane crash at age 13.
Andropov writes to U.S. student. (2011). The History Channel website. Retrieved 7:09, April 26, 2011, from http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/andropov-writes-to-us-student
China detains Protestant Shouwang devotees
Police were out in force to stop the worshippers – and question foreign media
At least 20 Chinese Protestants have been detained as they tried to gather for an Easter service in Beijing.
The worshippers, from the Shouwang church, were trying to hold an outdoor service because they are prevented from using their own premises.
Police have recently arrested dozens of people from the church.
The authorities have also been carrying out a wider suppression of dissent – harassing foreign reporters and detaining lawyers and activists.
The most high-profile detainee, artist Ai Weiwei, was taken by police as he tried to board a flight earlier this month.
His family say they do not know where he is, whether he has been charged with an offence, or even whether he has been formally arrested.
China’s constitution guarantees freedom of religion, but the Communist Party tries to control where people worship.
There are an estimated 70 million Christians in the country, about 20 million of whom attend government-approved churches.
The rest worship with unregistered groups known as “house” churches.
Such groups are broadly tolerated, but Shouwang leaders have annoyed the authorities in recent weeks by insisting on trying to hold services in the open.
Shouwang is one of Beijing’s biggest so-called underground Churches, with more than 1,000 members.
The BBC’s Damian Grammaticas in Beijing says police personnel were on every street corner in the area where the worshippers were due to meet on Sunday morning.
He says the authorities rounded up anyone suspected of being a member of the Shouwang church and loaded them on to buses to be driven to police stations.
One of the church’s leaders Jin Tianming, who is under house arrest, told AFP news agency that between 20 and 30 members had been detained.
He said they had been taken to several different police stations.
About 100 Shouwang members were held earlier this month, and 12 of its leaders are under house arrest.
Bob Fu, of the US-based Christian China Aid Association, says the crackdown on Christian worship is wider than Beijing.
He says churchgoers in the southern city of Guangzhou have been refused permission to hold Easter services, and Christians in the northern city of Hohhot are facing repression.
“There is a very large house church in Hohhot. They were also under crackdown. More than a dozen of the leaders are now under criminal detention,” said Mr Fu, who is a critic of Beijing’s religious policies.
The authorities have not yet commented on the latest detentions.