Thomas Peebles, Doctor Who Isolated Measles Virus, Dies at 89
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.
Peebles was also involved in research related to the tetanus vaccine, discovering that booster shots could be limited to once every ten years instead of every year, significantly reducing the risk of side effects.
Peebles passed away on July 8, 2010, at the age of 89.