History of Vaccines Blog

October 23, 2012  Project Director

Let’s congratulate a group of Fairview High School (Boulder, Colorado) students who won second place in the senior group documentary category in the annual National History Day competition. Kali, Charlie, Rohith, Jessica, and Jack put together an excellent collection of resources to trace the history of polio in the United States from its emergence as an epidemic disease in the 1890s through the success of the 1954 vaccine trial.

Posted in: Polio

October 1, 2012  Project Director

Philadelphia is an excellent place to learn about the history of vaccines, and The Wistar Institute, the country’s first independent biomedical research facility, is in great part responsible for this rich history. On Friday, September 28, Wistar Institute President and CEO Russel E. Kaufman, MD, spoke to a group of Wistar Institute friends and donors at The College of Physicians of Philadelphia. (Wistar is in the midst of a major construction project and has limited meeting space.) He told that crowd that he wanted us to unlearn some things we think we know about vaccines. In particular, he mentioned that he wanted to draw our attention to the way that scientific advancement truly happens: typically, it doesn’t result from a brilliant insight, followed by a methodical plan of action. Rather, accidents, collaboration, and learning from the context of one’s scientific milieu are important factors that affect scientific progress.

Posted in: Rabies, Vaccine Research

September 17, 2012  Project Director

If you're near Philadelphia, please join us Monday, October 1, at 6:30 pm, for a free talk by March of Dimes Archivist David Rose. Register at The talk will be held at The College of Physicians of Philadelphia, 19 S. 22 Street, Philadelphia, PA, 19103.

It is possible we may see polio eradicated from the world in our lifetime. The elusive goal of polio eradication began with the race to develop an effective vaccine in the mid-twentieth century. Little was known about poliovirus then, but the research of Jonas Salk, Albert Sabin, and other scientists catapulted into the news headlines through the efforts of the March of Dimes.

Posted in: Polio

August 30, 2012  Project Director

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has published a study in the journal Pediatrics on the effects of influenza in children with neurologic disorders. The study compared clinical outcomes during and after influenza, like hospitalization and death, between children with and without neurologic disorders. For the this study, researchers looked at the medical records of reported pediatric deaths between April 15 and September 30 of 2009, during the H1N1 influenza pandemic. Of the 336 pediatric deaths associated with influenza that were reviewed in the study, 227 (68%) “had at least 1 underlying condition that conferred an increased risk of complications of influenza.” Of those 227, 164 (64%) had a neurologic disorder.

Posted in: Influenza, Public Health

August 14, 2012  Project Director

The United Kingdom’s Department of Health Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization (JCVI) recently released the minutes from its latest meeting held in January. At that meeting, the committee discussed findings by its subcommittee on adolescent vaccinations regarding mumps in the United Kingdom, among other topics. The minutes record that the “sub-committee noted that a number of significant outbreaks of mumps had been seen in the UK over the last decade. Cases had been mainly limited to unimmunised and partially immunised individuals, however more recently a significant portion of infections were being confirmed in those who had received two MMR doses. However, generally mumps disease is less severe in immunised individuals.”

Posted in: Measles, Public Health

August 9, 2012  Project Director

Even in the heat of summer, influenza is in the news. An outbreak of what is being termed H3N2v influenza has emerged in Indiana and Ohio, affecting as many as 130 people and counting. The infection has been detected in people who had exposure to pigs that were sick with the H3N2v strain. While person-to-person infections have been detected, these seem to be limited and do not go beyond one or two people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Posted in: Influenza, Public Health

August 1, 2012  Project Director

As visitors to this site know, the development of new methods to cultivate viruses for vaccine use has been an important part of the history of vaccines. From living, complex organisms such as humans and cows, to chicken eggs, to tissue explants, to mammalian cells in culture, various hosts have been used at different stages of technological development to produce vaccine material. Now, recombinant technology, like cell culture technology before it, is changing the way vaccines are made as plants are being programmed to produce antigens for vaccines. Last week, College of Physicians Director and CEO George M. Wohlreich, MD, and I made a visit to a unique research facility in Newark, Delaware, last week to see first-hand the future of vaccines. Fraunhofer USA’s Center for Molecular Biotechnology built this 14,000 square foot plant-based vaccine research and manufacturing facility, funded partly by grants from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

Posted in: Influenza, Vaccine Research

July 27, 2012  Project Director

This past week, I had the chance to visit the International AIDS Conference held in Washington, DC. One of the most striking aspects of the conference was the number of young people who were there to advocate, coordinate, and communicate their beliefs and stories about AIDS. The youth have taken a stand and will certainly be a force in the future fight against the deadly disease. Here at History of Vaccines we strive to spread information about these horrific diseases to youth everywhere. After attending AIDS 2012, I realized how important it is to go beyond educating about the science of these diseases – and to actually teach young people what others in their generation are doing and how they got involved. Here are stories, tips, and inspirational quotes from some of the amazing youth I met at the conference. Keep up the good work, everyone!

Posted in: HIV

July 26, 2012  Project Director

Yesterday History of Vaccines staff had the pleasure of accompanying the College’s Teva interns and that program's staff to The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Our host was Kristen A. Feemster, MD, MPH, an infectious diseases physician at CHOP and Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. Among her many research interests, Dr. Feemster studies factors affecting administration and uptake of immunizations. The Teva Interns are Philadelphia high school students working here at the College on a three-week project looking at the unique health and social challenges facing Philadelphia youth. This week they are learning about sexually transmitted infections – their natural history and epidemiology – and will be producing videos on human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination.

Posted in: General

July 23, 2012  Project Director

esearchers at Tufts University have published their research on using silk to stabilize vaccines. When preservatives like thimerosal are not used, refrigeration is the only other way to preserve vaccines from the point of manufacture to the point of vaccination. Without preservatives or refrigeration, any bacterial contaminants could pose a risk to the health of those receiving the vaccine. Moreover, all vaccines are heat-sensitive to some degree, and loss of potency is a risk when vaccines are kept outside the optimal temperature. This new research is promising in that silk, a natural protein produced by some insects, is inert to the point that it is used to make hypoallergenic clothing and suture material to close wounds. It is also readily available. The research at Tufts is based on having the antigen -- the part of the vaccine that triggers the immune response -- embedded in silk produced by silkworms (the larval form of the silkmoth). The silk will then maintain the antigen regardless of the storage temperature.

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