Saturday, April 5, 2008
Jonas Edward Salk (October 28, 1914 – June 23, 1995) was an American physician and researcher best known for the development of the first successful polio vaccine (the eponymous Salk vaccine).
During his life he worked in New York, Michigan, Pittsburgh and California. In his later career, Salk devoted much energy toward the development of an AIDS vaccine.
Salk did not seek wealth or fame through his innovations, famously stating, "Who owns my polio vaccine? The people! Could you patent the sun?"
In 1947, Salk received a position at the University of Pittsburgh, as the head of the Virus Research lab. Though he continued his research on improving the influenza vaccine, he set his sights on the poliomyelitis virus. The poliovirus initially attacks the nervous system and within a few hours of infection, paralysis can occur. The death rate of the disease is about 5-10%. Death usually occurs when the breathing muscles become paralyzed. Polio was sometimes hard to diagnose because of its flu-like symptoms, which include stiff neck, fever, and headache.
At that time, it was believed that immunity can come only after the body has survived at least a mild infection by live virus. In contrast, Salk observed that it is possible to acquire immunity through contact with inactivated (killed) virus. Using formaldehyde, Salk killed the poliovirus, but kept it intact enough to trigger the necessary immune response. Salk's research caught the attention of Basil O'Connor, president of the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis (now known as the March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation). The organization decided to fund Salk's efforts to develop a killed virus vaccine.
The vaccine was first tested in monkeys, and then in patients at the D.T. Watson Home for Crippled Children. After successful tests, in 1952, Salk tested his vaccine on volunteering parties, including himself, the laboratory staff, his wife, and his children. In 1954, national testing began on two million children, ages six to nine, who became known as the Polio Pioneers. This was one of the first double-blind placebo-controlled tests, which has since become standard: half of the treated received the vaccine, and half received a placebo, where neither the individuals nor the researchers know who belongs to the control group and the experimental group. One-third of the children, who lived in areas where vaccine was not available, were observed in order to evaluate the background level of polio in this age group. On April 12, 1955, the results were announced: the vaccine was safe and effective. The patient would develop immunity to the live disease due to the body's earlier reaction to the killed virus.
Salk's vaccine was instrumental in beginning the eradication of polio, a once widely-feared disease. Polio's outbreak in 1916 left 6000 dead and 27,000 paralyzed. In 1952, 57,628 cases were recorded. After the vaccine became available, polio cases in the U.S. dropped by 85-90 percent in only two years.
However, the live-virus oral vaccine developed by Albert Sabin became the preferred alternative after a sometimes intense clash between the two scientists and their adherents. The Salk vaccine, which is injected, proved to be effective in sharply reducing the number of polio cases in the United States. But the Sabin vaccine had the advantage of easier delivery and became accepted in the United States after the testing abroad. It was licensed in 1961 and eventually became the vaccine of choice in most parts of the world. The last indigenous case of polio in the U.S. was reported in 1991. Partly because of that fact, only inactivated, Salk-type polio vaccines have been recommended for use in the United States since 2000.
Dr. Salk's last years were spent searching for a vaccine against AIDS.
Jonas Salk died on June 23, 1995 in La Jolla at the age of 80. Father Chip Homer performed the funeral service.
Man Unfolding (1972)
Survival of the Wisest (1973)
World Population and Human Values: A New Reality (1981)
Anatomy of Reality (1983) Books
There are schools in Bolingbrook, Illinois, Levittown, New York, and Old Bridge, New Jersey named for him.
He is cited in the popular American TV Series The Office, Season 3, Episode 37, "The Convict," as a white person which character Jim Halpert trusts. "Who?" replies his boss, Michael, portrayed as dim-witted by actor Steve Carrell.
Posted by gigihong07 at 9:45 AM