History of Vaccines Blog


January 6, 2011  Anonymous

A January 5, 2011 report in the BMJ investigates the 1998 paper that first alleged a link between the MMR vaccine and autism. The author, Brian Deer, presents evidence that the paper resulted from research fraud. The History of Vaccines blog looks at the history of the paper and how it has profoundly affected research, public health, and the public perception of vaccines over the last 12 years. In the wake of a paper published in the Lancet in 1998, vaccination rates in Britain plummeted. The lead author of the paper, Andrew Wakefield, rose to infamy as a result of his claims that the combination measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine had caused autism in the 12 children in the study, and frightened parents began to delay or completely refuse vaccination for their children, both in Britain and the United States. Since then, outbreaks of previously eliminated diseases have sickened and killed children in both countries. Read More...

Posted in: General, Measles, Public Health, Vaccine Research

January 3, 2011  Anonymous

Influenza is a challenging disease for vaccine researchers. At any given time, multiple influenza strains are circulating, and immunity against one strain does not necessarily provide protection against others. In addition, influenza A viruses frequently mutate, so that it is difficult to find a "target" within the virus that will remain stable between various strains and mutations. As a result, the current approach for developing flu vaccines is based on observations of the strains most likely to be circulating in the coming flu season. The seasonal flu vaccine contains three inactivated strains of influenza, but typically can't provide protection against other strains. Now, the results of a recent study in mice suggest that a new approach may be able to provide long-lasting, cross-strain protection against influenza. Read More...

Posted in: General, Influenza, Public Health, Vaccine Research

January 3, 2011  Anonymous

Renowned vaccinologist Stanley A. Plotkin, MD, creator of the rubella vaccine used throughout most of the world, helped inaugurate the History of Vaccines website with his November 3 lecture entitled "Four Centuries of Vaccinology." This lecture is now available to view here on the History of Vaccines blog. The video features footage of Dr. Plotkin's lecture as well as the slides that accompanied his talk. Dr. Plotkin, who was an instrumental figure in the development of rubella, polio, rabies, varicella, rotavirus, anthrax, and other vaccines, traces the serendipitous beginnings of vaccinology in the 1700s to its flowering in the latter half of the 20th century. Additionally, he highlights the relationship of vaccinology to industrial and technological developments, as well as the special role of Philadelphia institutions and researchers in vaccine development. Especially interesting is a description of an exchange with Albert B. Sabin, MD, at scientific meeting in the late 1960s, when Sabin objected to Plotkin's (and others') use of cell lines derived from human fetal tissue. Read More...

Posted in: General

December 17, 2010  Project Director

We are thrilled to announce that The History of Vaccines epidemic game is now available! Illsville: Fight the Disease is a game that takes players on a journey through history and health, as the townspeople of Illsville attempt to identify diseases and develop vaccines for them. Decision points based on historical events influence the outcome of the game: Should scientists be given microscopes to further their investigations? Will creating a live or killed vaccine be more effective? Players can deploy doctors, quarantines, and educators to combat outbreaks. An unsuccessful game ends when disease wipes out the population of Illsville. A successful game ends with a healthy, vaccinated population.   Read More...

Posted in: General

December 7, 2010  Anonymous

Research for new articles about typhoid fever and cholera have kept us busy in The College's Historical Medical Library over the past week, and as usual, we stumbled across some great holdings. One that we particularly wanted to share was this map showing deaths from typhoid fever and malaria in Washington, D.C., from 1888-1892. Click on the image or click here to be taken to its page in the Gallery, where you can zoom in on the map to see how the diseases affected the city's districts. With red dots representing deaths from typhoid, and blue representing deaths from malaria, the map documents 626 typhoid deaths and 363 from malaria over the five-year period. Read More...

Posted in: General, Historical Medical Library, Malaria, Public Health

December 6, 2010  Anonymous

In the United States, meningitis is thought of as an extremely rare disease. It usually appears in the news when a college student has fallen ill, amid reminders by public health officials that a meningococcal vaccine can protect against diseases caused by Neisseria meningitidis bacteria, including meningitis. In 2008 (the most recent year for which data are available) only about 1,100 total cases of meningococcal disease were reported in the United States, and meningitis cases were only a fraction of that number. In other parts of the world, however, meningitis takes a much larger toll. In Sub-Saharan Africa, an area that spans from Senegal to Ethiopia is called the “meningitis belt” because of the epidemic waves that occur there, some lasting as long as three years. The largest epidemic wave in history led to more than 25,000 meningitis deaths from 1996 to 1997. In 2009 alone, more than 88,000 cases were reported. Now, a new vaccine developed specifically for use in Africa offers hope that future epidemics may be prevented. Read More...

Posted in: General, Meningococcal disease, Public Health

December 1, 2010  Anonymous

There are two vaccines, Gardasil (made by Merck) and Cervarix (made by GlaxoSmithKline), approved to prevent cervical cancer caused by HPV (human papillomavirus). Both vaccines protect against HPV strains 16 and 18, which are estimated to account for 70% of cervical and vaginal cancer cases. Gardasil (human papillomavirus [HPV] vaccine, quadrivalent) also offers protection against two strains that cause genital warts. Gardasil was the first of the two vaccines to be introduced in the United States. In 2006, it was approved for use in preventing cervical cancer and genital warts for girls and women between nine and 26 years of age. Since then, based on additional data, it has also been approved for the prevention of vulvar and vaginal cancer, and for the prevention of genital warts in boys and men between nine and 26 years of age. Now, new data have led a Food and Drug Administration advisory panel to recommend expanding the vaccine's use to include the prevention of anal cancer, a disease whose incidence doubled in the United States between 1975 and 2007. Read More...

Posted in: General, HPV, Public Health

November 17, 2010  Project Director

Georgia Institute of Technology, the nonprofit PATH, and Emory University recently received a $10 million grant from the National Institutes of Health for development and Phase I clinical trial investigation of a microneedle delivery technique for influenza vaccine. This method involves placing a patch containing vaccine-coated microneedles on the skin, where the needles and vaccine slowly dissolve. A backing that is left behind can be safely and easily discarded. Apart from their ease of administration, the patches offer a potential benefit in that they might generate immunity better than traditional influenza vaccine. Influenza vaccination usually involves injecting the vaccine into muscle tissue. But the microneedles deliver vaccine into the skin, where larger numbers of antigen-presenting cells are present. Antigen-presenting cells (APCs) are a key factor in generating immunity: they recognize antigens, ingest them and break them apart, and present the pieces to other immune cells that then neutralize and remember the antigens. Activating larger numbers of APCs could lead to a more robust immune response. Ioanna Skountzou, co-principal investigator for the project and an assistant professor in Emory University School of Medicine’s Department of Microbiology and Immunology, describes this important potential benefit of the microneedle vaccine delivery technique: “We have seen evidence that the vaccine works even better when administered to the skin because of the plethora of antigen presenting cells which reside there…..This study will allow us to determine how we can optimize the vaccine to take advantage of those cells that are important in generating the body’s immune response.” Read More...

Posted in: Influenza, Vaccine Research

November 11, 2010  Anonymous

Globally, pneumonia remains the most deadly disease for children younger than five. Yet with a combination of vaccination efforts and treatment with antibiotics, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI) calls pneumonia "one of the most solvable problems in global health." As a reminder of the disease's impact and the importance of global efforts to stop preventable deaths from pneumonia, GAVI and a host of other organizations have announced that Friday, November 12, will be the second annual World Pneumonia Day. As part of this effort to raise awareness, the organizing groups have offered several ways for people to get involved, including wearing blue jeans on Friday to raise awareness about pneumonia's impact worldwide (as the organizers put it, "We tried to come up with a painless (and free!) way to communicate that we must pay attention to these preventable deaths. What we came up with is a world-wide blue jean day. The reason is simple: Children who are dying of pneumonia turn blue because they can't breathe") and sending "Pneumonia Grams" to public officials, asking them to consider pneumonia as a priority issue. (See http://worldpneumoniaday.org/act/pneumonia-gram/). Read More...

Posted in: General, Pneumococcal disease, Public Health

November 11, 2010  Anonymous

The College of Physicians of Philadelphia celebrated the official launch of The History of Vaccines website with a lecture by Stanley A. Plotkin, MD, titled "Four Centuries of Vaccinology." Dr. Plotkin, developer of the rubella vaccine now used worldwide, discussed the many discoveries made and challenges overcome by vaccinologists since the development of the first vaccine against smallpox in the late 1700s. His talk, which was also broadcast on the web particularly noted the contributions made to the field of vaccinology by individuals and companies in the Philadelphia region. He discussed the pioneering use of human diploid cells in vaccine development by The Wistar Institute (where he had a laboratory for many years) as well as hopes for future innovations in vaccine development and manufacturing, including advances in genetic engineering and the expansion of vaccine targets to include chronic conditions. Read More...

Posted in: General