Live Webcast: "Four Centuries of Vaccinology," by Stanley A. Plotkin, MD

Stanley A. Plotkin, MD Join us for a History of Vaccines launch event. Stanley A. Plotkin, MD, developer of the rubella vaccine in worldwide use today, will deliver a lecture entitled "Four Centuries of Vaccinology" on November 3, at 6:30 pm at The College of Physicians of Philadelphia. View the live webcast by pointing your browser to around 6:30 pm Eastern time, Wednesday, 11/3. (We will remove the password requirement shortly before the webcast.) Or, if you're in Philadelphia, join us at the lecture. See The College of Physicians of Philadelphia's Events Calendar to register for the lecture. More

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Rarely Seen: Our Curator Discusses the Iron Lung

The iron lung became one of the most iconic objects of the polio scourge. Mütter Museum Curator Anna Dhody describes the iron lung featured in the museum's new exhibit, Rarely Seen. This exhibit offers visitors a glimpse of objects that have  not been displayed for decades or are recent acquisitions that have never been exhibited. Some of the instruments represent the pinnacle of medical knowledge for their time, while others had mixed and sometimes detrimental medical results.

Many people remember when the threat of polio was omnipresent. Public pools and movie theaters were closed and parents lived in fear that their children could be struck down at any moment, unable to move or breathe. No one was safe: while the poliomyelitis virus affected mainly children, adults were also susceptible. The iron lung became one of the most iconic objects of the polio scourge, a symbol of the epidemics of the 1940s and 50s. More

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Welcome to History of Vaccines!

If you've been following our blog over the past few months, you'll notice that our look has changed. Our website,, is now in previews after several years of planning and about a year of development.

The site provides a historical and scientific context for the development of immunizations. It features not only holdings of the Historical Medical Library and Mütter Museum of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia, but also images, text, and video from a variety of public and private sources.

We invite you to explore the site -- the media-rich timelines on yellow fever, polio, smallpox, measles, diphtheria, and other diseases; the educational activities on how vaccines work, how vaccines are made, and how the scientific method is employed; the variety of articles on social and medical issues surrounding vaccination; and the gallery, which houses over 400 images and videos.

The History of Vaccines will officially launch on November 3, 2010, with an event here in Philadelphia: Stanley A. Plotkin, MD, developer of the rubella vaccine in current worldwide use, and emeritus professor of The Wistar Institute and The University of Pennsylvania, will give the Samuel X Radbill lecture entitled "Four Centuries of Vaccinology." Register HERE for the free event.

If you'd like to be notified about future History of Vaccines events and content releases, join our email list. More

Rarely Seen: Iron Lung

Collection of the Mütter Museum of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia Here at The College of Physicians of Philadelphia, our own Mütter Museum is preparing an exhibit entitled Rarely Seen: Hidden Collections of the Mütter Museum. Visitors will have the chance to see some rarely or never before seen items. Too large to display in the permanent museum galleries, these fascinating objects will briefly have a home in our temporary exhibit space.  Of particular interest to the History of Vaccines project is an iron lung manufactured by J.H. Emerson Co. as well as  a bacterial incubator used by Robert Austrian, MD, a pioneer researcher in pneumococcal disease and developer of the polysaccharide pneumococcal vaccine. This exhibit will be on display from October 2010 through January 2011.

Over the next few days we’ll post more pictures of the iron lung along with the tale of how it came to the Mütter Museum. More

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Robert Chanock, Renowned Virologist, Dies at 86

Photomicrographic detection of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) using indirect immunofluorescence technique. CDC/ Dr. H. Craig Before Robert Chanock, MD, joined the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) in 1957, researchers had not identified a culprit for a constellation of serious respiratory illnesses that affected infants and children each year, particularly in the winter. Soon after Chanock joined NIAID’s Laboratory of Infectious diseases, however, he and his colleagues identified and named the virus: respiratory syncytial virus. RSV, as it is commonly known, is the most common cause of bronchiolitis and pneumonia among American children less than one year of age.

When asked if he had any advice for parents worried about RSV, Chanock alluded to the virus’s tendency to spread during the winter and famously quipped (though he noted that there was some truth to the remark) that parents should have their babies in the spring. Through his research efforts, however, he and his colleagues provided a better form of protection against the virus: an antibody to protect against RSV in infants at high risk for RSV illnesses.

Throughout his career, a great deal of Chanock’s research was in the field of respiratory disease. He collaborated with other researchers to discover parainfluenza viruses that cause childhood respiratory illnesses, isolate strains of the virus that causes the common cold, and isolate one of the causes of bacterial pneumonia. More

Thomas Peebles, Doctor Who Isolated Measles Virus, Dies at 89

Thin-section transmission electron micrograph (TEM) shows the ultrastructural appearance of a single virus particle, or "virion, In 1954, Thomas C. Peebles, MD, was working in the laboratory of John F. Enders, PhD, at Boston Children’s Hospital. Earlier, Enders had contributed to work on tissue culture that helped in the development of vaccines for polio; now, he wanted Peebles to focus on the measles.

During an outbreak of the disease at a private school outside of Boston, Peebles set out to isolate the measles virus. After getting permission from the school’s principal, Peebles collected blood samples from each of the sick boys at the school, telling them: “Young man, you are standing on the frontiers of science.”

On February 8, Peebles succeeded, collecting measles virus-laden blood from 13-year-old David Edmonston. This virus would eventually be used to create measles vaccines, and, the measles component of the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine used today is still grown using the Edmonston strain. More

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History of Vaccines Highlights on Facebook

What vaccine-preventable disease caused this young woman's facial disfigurement? This week The College of Physicians of Philadelphia is highlighting photographs from the History of Vaccines on its Facebook.

They’re posting a new picture and question daily. To learn the answer to each question, check back in at the end of the workday.

Today’s question and photograph (shown at left, from the historical photograph collection of the Mütter Museum) already have 27 responses.

Visit, comment, and LIKE at

Photograph property and copyright of the Mütter Museum of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia. May not be reproduced with permission of the College. See for details. More

Waterborne Diseases Come with a Large Pricetag

Under a moderately-high magnification of 6500X, this colorized scanning electron micrograph (SEM) depicted a scattered grouping People in developed countries don’t tend to spend much time worrying about waterborne diseases. Modern water treatment systems have drastically improved the safety of public water supplies, and if people have even heard of parasitic diseases like Cryptosporidiosis (commonly called “crypto”) or Giardiasis, they tend to think of them merely as an unpleasant bout of diarrhea–uncomfortable and inconvenient, but nothing serious.

Parasitic diseases like Crypto and Giardiasis, however, as well as bacterial illnesses like Legionnaires’ disease, can cause severe infections that lead to hospitalization and death, even in developed nations. Recently, researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analyzed the annual cost of hospitalizations for cases of Legionnaires’, Crypto and Giardiasis in the United States. Using insurance claim data from 2004-2007, the researchers determined that cases of hospitalization from the three diseases may cost more than half a billion dollars annually–including both costs paid by insurance companies and costs paid out-of-pocket by patients.

Among the three, Legionnaires’ was found to have the highest annual financial toll due to hospitalization, with the total cost estimated to be between $101 and $321 million. A single inpatient hospitalization for a case of Legionnaries’ averaged more than $34,000. More

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Researchers Study New Approach to Malaria Vaccine

This photograph depicts two Anopheles gambiae mosquitoes as the female at the top of the image was in the process of egg-laying Researchers have examined many possible approaches for vaccines against malaria, a parasitic illness spread by mosquitoes that affects hundreds of millions of people each year. One of the most promising approaches thus far has been a subunit vaccine: a vaccine candidate using this approach, RTS,S, is in late-stage clinical trials.

Researchers in Queensland, Australia have begun testing another approach, however: a vaccine that combines killed parasites with an adjuvant to boost immune response. The resulting vaccine was tested in mice, and was shown to provide long-lasting, cross-strain protection against malaria.

The group focused on developing a vaccine with the lowest possible dose of killed parasite that would still elicit a protective immune response. Their test vaccine induced a broadly reactive T cell response of the type usually generated by live, attenuated vaccines–yet with a safety profile more in line with a killed vaccine. More

New Discovery May Advance HIV Vaccine Design

This atomic level snapshot captures the antibody in the act of binding the viral site for attachment to its primary human host c HIV is a challenging target for vaccine researchers for many reasons, not the least of which is its lack of stability. The surface proteins of the virus frequently change, keeping the immune system from recognizing it–and keeping researchers from selecting a surface protein as a stable target for a vaccine.

At least one area on the surface of the virus, however, seems to remain fairly stable across all variants of HIV: a site located on the surface spikes the virus uses to bind to and infect immune cells. Now, two teams of researchers have found antibodies that attach to this site, preventing the virus from binding to immune cells, and have highlighted ways this discovery may lead to new advances in HIV vaccine designs.

The antibodies are found in the blood serum of many individuals infected with HIV. The researchers selected HIV-1 isolates encompassing all of the major circulating subtypes of the virus, and showed that these antibodies could bind to–and neutralize–more than 90% of them. That broad ability to neutralize so many variants of the virus is because of the stability of the binding site, which remains the same among nearly all strains. Therefore, a vaccine that could “train” the human immune system to generate similar antibodies could provide protection against the majority of circulating HIV variants. More

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