Saturday, June 24, 2000
F A C T   F I L E

Richard Evelyn Byrd
June 18, 2000
William Faulkner
June 10, 2000
Sir John Hunt
June 3, 2000

Jonas Edward Salk
By Illa Vij
Polio and after

"THERE is more in life than just money." These were the words of Jonas Salk, the American scientist, who devoted his life to research for benefit of mankind. Dr Salk developed a vaccine for poliomyelitis, also called infantile paralysis. While the search was on, anxious parents waited for the modest scientist to give them a vaccine to bring an end to the dreaded disease which left children crippled for life.

Jonas Salk was born in the year 1914, in New York city. He belonged to an orthodox Jewish family and spent his boyhood in Manhattan. His father was a salaried employee in the garment industry. As a young boy, Jonas enjoyed reading and was quite studious. He did quite well at Townsend Harrison High School. Then he went to the City College of New York and studied further.

He won several scholarships which made it possible for him to study at the New York University School of Medicine. Here he met Dr Maurice Brodie. Dr Maurice was already doing a research on polio. He also met Dr Francis who had been working on influenza. Many scientists had turned their attention towards polio and were desperately trying to find a vaccine for its prevention. Along with his wife and children, Jonas went to the University of Michigan. Here, along with Dr Francis he continued research on the virus influenza. After five years, Salk was recommended to head a research programme at the University of Pittsburgh Medical School. This institution was conducting the anti-polio research. Jonas concentrated all his energies to finding a cure for polio. By this time a number of signifcant discoveries had been made by other researchers. It had been found that polio was caused by a virus. Scientists had also isolated the viruses and developed a process of culturing them in tissues. It was also found that there were three different strains of polio, each with different characteristics. The fact that the polio virus entered the blood stream where antibodies could attack it, had also been confirmed.

  Such information and other details were made available to Jonas. The National Foundation of Infantile Paralysis provided him with the necessary funds and resources. By the end of 1951, Jonas verified Dr Bodian’s findings that there were three types of polio viruses. The task ahead was to prepare an effective immunisation vaccine. Dr Salk had to select proper strains of the virus so that the vaccine would be effective against all three types of polio. He had to ensure that all the viruses in the vaccine would be destroyed and would yet produce antibodies in the bloodstream to fight infection. After endless trials and errors and record-keeping, the right vaccine was made. The vaccine worked successfully on monkeys. The vital question was whether it would work on human beings.

Finally when Dr Salk felt that the vaccine was ready, he first innoculated himself, his wife and his three children. Next, it was tried on three hundred other volunteers. It was successful in all cases. Next about 1,800,000 school children, who volunteered, were innoculated in April, 1954. In 1955, Dr Francis reported the success of the vaccine to the nation. Meanwhile, Dr Salk continued making improvements on the vaccine. He modestly acknowledged the important contributions of all researchers. He received many honours and in 1977 he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. His work in the study of influenza was also very significant. The vaccine relieved the parents, who would not see their children crippled by polio any more. Dr Jonas Salk died in the year 1995.

Albert B. Saben: The doctor and researcher developed the oral polio vaccine. He was also an American and like Dr Salk he devoted his energies to the vaccine for polio.

Albert was born in Poland in 1906. He graduate from the New York University College of Medicine. He worked in the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine and also at the Medical University of South Carolina. The oral vaccine which he discovered for polio was easier to administer than the injection. The world benefitted enormously from the use of both, the injection and the vaccine. Albert B. Saben died in 1993.


Polio and after

What is polio?

"Polio" (or poliomyelitis, infantile paralysis) is a disease caused by three viruses that enter the mouth, grow in the intestines and pass along the nerves into the brain and then the spinal cord.

What damage does the polio virus do?

The polio viruses enter nerves in the brain and spinal cord and take over their "metabolic factory," causing the nerves to stop working normally and just to produce polio virus. During this invasion, the infected nerves cannot function and muscles in the arms, legs, chest, diaphragm and throat become weak or are paralyzed. If someone has muscle weakness or paralysis, 90 per cent of their motor nerves are affected by the polio virus and at least 50 per cent are killed. The remaining nerves, although damaged, are able to work again and send out sprouts (like extra telephone lines) to turn on the muscles that were orphaned when their nerves died.

What are Post-Polio Sequelae (PPS)?

Post-Polio Sequelae (PPS) — new fatigue, muscle weakness, joint and muscle pain, cold intolerance and breathing and swallowing difficulty — are the "sequel" to having had polio and occur in as many as 80 per cent of survivors of paralytic and non-paralytic polio.

What causes PPS?

PPS are caused by "overuse abuse." Nerves that were damaged by polio and had sprouted have been overworked for 40 years and can no longer take the strain. So too, overworked muscles ache and joints hurt after decades of doing too much work with too little muscle support.

Is PPS a progressive disease?

No. PPS is neither progressive nor a disease. PPS are just the body growing tired of doing too much work with too few damaged and overworked neurons.

What is the treatment for PPS?

Polio survivors basically need to conserve energy to stop blowing their bodies’ "fuses." Polio survivors must walk less, use needed assistive devices (a brace, crutches, a scooter), stop working before symptoms come on, and plan rest periods throughout the day.