Polio was a terrifying threat in the early 20th century: It often left victims paralyzed or dead. Yet two vaccines caused an immediate drop in polio cases and today they've nearly eradicated the disease. But what exactly happened? Tune in to find out.
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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
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Eleven welcomes the pie cast, I'm fair dowdy and I'm going to try for boarding and civil another year during Halloween I put on a really fine camping movie. I know you like happy movies. I doing this with a birth Carla,
but it wasn't one of his more famous gravity, carrying away
Frankenstein or the mummy or something it was called, be eight and it Lou
it's pretty. Well, maybe I'm not gonna lie. It was about a mad scientist in a small
town, but neither typical mad scientist tooth. You know
like rolling his fingers and looking evil. He was a kindly sort of fellow had a heart and he was trying to cure something called paralysis in the movie. My Netflix
told me though it was.
polio and got eleven
people have Netflix very informative, but the doktor
Karlov was trying to cure this paralysis and he was going do so by obtaining a zero men, of course, because it's a campi horror movies,
It goes to the point where he dance and eight suit and goes about murdering people trying to obtain their spinal fluid. But I also noticed that the movie came out in nineteen forty and as fully as it was, I mean it was enjoy by recommended that a failure that was it was playing off
A very real fear at the time and now is, of course, the paralysis in the move.
polio, as we know, have because since polio, first start
striking in epidemic proportions in the late nineteenth century had only grown worse and worse and worse,
people didn't know how to stop it. They'd
didn't know how it spread in Warsaw,
something that usually struck kids in the severest for
killing them or paralyzing,
for life of extremely disturbing
these. In the United States, for instance, polio epidemics would sweep across the country each summer striking
Rural and urban areas. Poor and wealthy neighborhoods team
adults could get it too, and it was usually actually worse for them to stop the spread.
In cities would revert to Renaissance Lake plague practices, no travel, no trade and they would sometimes put corps
teens on the homes, the Smith zone?
The theme of american history has a New York Times clipping from nineteen. Sixteen about me,
who is unable to find a physician for a sick child and so
drove around and around until the boy died and
even then he couldn't find anyone to take the body, and it wasn't just the fear of catching polio. The after effects of the epidemic were also extremely haunting. Kids in wheelchairs than lead braces patients in need dreaded iron. Long. We're gonna talk about that a little more later and in the early stages of the disease, the patient would often be separated from his or her family for about two weeks followed by.
very limited, contacting adjustment hours, though every now and then, and these extended periods of separation made adjusting to life after polio, with all its consequences, a lot harder, but today
for if people have any understanding of polio usually relates to? After president, Frank,
Elinor roads about who contracted the disease as an adult.
In eighteen, twenty one unless you're living in one of the four countries where wild polio virus is still present, the fear,
Just isn't there any more? You couldn't put out I'm a movie any more about this sum: paralysis,
be some other sort of scary contain
this virus, because there is no longer any reason.
Somebody to contract polio, so we're gonna talk about
the two very different vaccines that are almost eliminated: polio, the men who created them and
inoculations of the nineteen fifteen and sixteen that took place. But first we're gonna talk a little bit about what polio actually is its parallel
The polio my latest and sometimes called infantile paralysis and its caused by
arrests, the polio virus, which was discovered in nineteen o, eight by Carl's land, Steiner and Erwin pauper.
and today we know that the virus takes fecal oral rout, meaning that contaminated fecal matter gets into the mouth through the hands or through food or either
who droplets from an infected persons, coffers, knees and once the
This is in the mouth, it starts, multiplying and the gastro intestinal track and lymph nodes from there. It spreads
the bloodstream, but here's the thing that's where it stops,
Most people which I didn't know before this rise from nature about ninety five percent of people who contract polio, don't experienced severe symptoms. They might feel like they have the
whew or maybe not notice. Anything at all. These people become resistant to which
strain of player. They have contracted exactly fight if the polio virus keeps going, it attacks the central nervous system destroying the motor cycles of the spine.
Ford and brainstorming. This usually ends up affecting the limb Lesotho, thus pulleys association with
our life legs, but it can also hit the official my thoughts or the back
abdominal my full causing twisted spines and in the worst cases it strikes muscle in the
Vittoria area, which in the early days, usually meant a death sentence. The development of the iron long in the nation twentyth helped keep these people live. Interestingly, if you could get through, though the acute phase, the first couple,
in an iron long. Your muscles could usually develop enough Pham strength, their tone to start,
but a breed on your own again, but it took a while to get to that.
we even though the polio virus wasn't discovered until nineteen o eight its believed to have existed
Mummy of Nineteenth Dynasty Pharaoh, for example, who lived between thirteen
me too and eleven. Ninety seven b c even shows deformity is kept that are characteristic of polio, but still polio must not happen.
widespread for many many centuries. It didn't begin appearing in medical tax until the seventeen hundreds
and it wasn't until eighteen sixty eight that the first epidemic occurred in Oslo, and I think that so interesting that there's this long dormant period
essentially I mean not dormant people- are still getting polio. Ass though we believe that now
anywhere like the kind of polio they were getting in the twentieth century, the first: U S, epidemic, didn't happen until eighteen. Ninety four in Vermont and by that play doctors around the world, were starting to piece together. The fact that you could go,
polio and not have any symptoms or
be resistant and not know that you had ever had
polio, better understanding that the virus and the disease, but by the nineteen teens epidemics, were polio epidemic for becoming a regular summer occurrence near cities. First epidemic, for instance, happened in nineteen. Sixteen, it affected nine thousand people and killed two thousand
three hundred forty three so the race to find
a cure for this or create a vaccine to prevent it was definitely on. But before we go on to discuss the attempts to create a vaccine for peace
I think it will help to know exactly what a vaccine
as an interesting case. Anybody does there and then better
understand how people understood vaccines in the twentieth century, where they were going into a guess at first
the scenario for you. If you had type away
polio before and you didn't get sick, it would mean
your body had successfully produced antibodies to fight it off when you encounter the virus a second time. Your body would know what to do with that again, a vaccine
Essentially attempts to mimic this response, tricking the immune system into producing antibodies, to fight off a virus. That's not actually the,
strength real deal, it's something so
but not as dangerous or its weekend or it's in a very small quantities that is enough to tee
your body, what to do so that its ready
we'll think comes along exactly though humans have then likely attempting fell vaccination for thousands of years,
immunization, as we understood.
It really kicked off in seventeen, eighty six with Edward Jenner and he unoccupied it- a young english boy, again smallpox using cow pox, which was not as scary, not its deadly as smallpox, but still produced a similar response with aunt
So, the next Bigley happened in eighteen. Eighty five, when Lui pasture used a syringe
vaccinating a boy who had been bitten by a mad dog against rabies. The boy would have definitely gotten think he would have died from rabies and the
syringe proved to be a way more reliable delivery method. Then the earlier technique of using things like lances and pass from park than in Canada, China, growth, but also
kind of unreliable method from their large scale, immunization started by world.
One with that, Syria and IRAN.
Became something that people are used to, at least with a few specific diseases.
but even though medical researchers knew that a vaccine was also feasible for polio. There were some advance,
to be made, namely
a better understanding of the virus and how to grow it in large enough quantities for a in
thirty one australian researchers realise that polio came in different types and that just because you had resistance to wine, it didn't mean that you couldn't catch another. So this meant
any vaccine, would need to cover all types that with why that example, depleted
earlier specifically was like if you got polio type one right, because if he had time to a new encountered type one
You wouldn't have fairly have a resistance, another big advancing
happened in eighteen, forty one when Doktor Albert FEAR, then and
word showed that polio virus wasn't just a disease of the nervous system, even though that was where people under
it as and thats what it attacked. They realise that it entered through the mouth and it first affected the digestive system, so that the justice that a vaccine could possibly stop the virus, while it was still in the
its before even got to the nervous system and started causing so much damage,
then a nineteen forty, nine researchers at Johns Hopkins confirmed that the nineteen thirty one suggestion of polio came in different types was true. There,
three main varieties, one two and three
again any vaccine had to work on all of them to really work and
in forty nine doktor, John Andrews, Thomas Weller and Frederick Robin showed that the virus could grow on other types of tissue than nervous tissue like embryo
skin or muscle tissue. So before this cultivating the virus meant that you had to use live monkeys to grow it which
something that was expire.
Serve and not available to small lab you're having huge amounts monkeys, growing, polio virus, though these three
ended up winning the Nobel Prize and nineteen fifty four for their work and that finding was really crucial in developing a vaccine.
Is you gotta make large amounts of a vaccine if it's gonna do anything fill in
worse decades, of polio, paranoia and fear. There were obviously these big jobs than our understanding of the virus, but there were also some set back. The nineteen thirty five doctor
Lee and Doktor John Comber each conducted separate human trials for their own versions of polio vaccine. The results were completely the fast
A lot of kids contracted polio. A few people died, but by
here too, there were again some new advancement and have access.
made. The introduction of commercially may backs
for soldiers manufacturing guidelines, definitely more stringent rules about clinical testing, so it was setting the stage again for this.
Big revolution, we're gonna talk about that happened in the nineteen fifty
polio also became an almost warlike matter for after in nineteen forty four, he said quote the dread disease.
Is that we battle at home, like the enemy we oppose abroad, shows no concern nope
for the young. It strikes with its most frequent and
stating force against children. And that is why much of the future
Bank of America depends upon the success that we achieve in combating this disease, but power
in a combat it with polio. There were two main ways to go: they could use and inactive
killed virus as the basis for the vaccine or they could use
attenuated or weakened virus as the basis for the vaccine. So, ironically, both of these ended up working well, but there is one that got more if the glory
though, enter Doktor Jonas Edward Saul costs borne October, twenty eight in eighteen, fourteen in New York City to russian Jewish,
migrants, who was the first in his family to go to college
and he earned
his M d from New York University College of Medicine, but while he was studying their thoughts, worked
a microbiologists named Thomas Frances Junior, who was attempting
You create a flu vaccine which was later used successfully in world war. Two, though, thought got this early exposure to making.
seen then and trying to think about things like that and in eighteen, forty seven, the University of Pittsburgh recruited,
to work specifically on viruses and, ultimately on the polio virus
by in eighteen. Fifty two, his research had paid
He was ready to start testing a kid.
the virus vaccine, so a virus that had been killed with formaldehyde, but it left enough of
The structure intact to trigger response like it went to live polio. So first,
sitting on kids, who had already had polio and recovered, and they showed
said antibodies. Then he tested it.
institutionalized kids, who are disabled or mentally handicapped as well as on himself. His wife and his own kids-
it's a good point to note that all of this plenary search
can come across this kind of an ethical today because of the Taliban
Did he finalize kids and test on prisoners tests on your own family on on yourself, and also animal tests,
until I think
Then one hundred thousand monkeys were killed during the whole process of making these viruses or making them
nations, rather so to seek out something
go out there and another random note testing and on his wife and kid that wasn't this life but thought second wife with because those we
Mr Assertive Francoise Kilo, who is the mother of poem a little bit of it,
spected connection there. I just I thought I had mentioned when they sit next to a photo of Picasso here in the studio. Actually, meanwhile, there's another connection. Isn't deadline is sitting next to tattler. I know
If you want to vodka, hurting people might like my better, but so no into six.
These trials and since nineteen
he too had also been Poleos Peak year in the United States, with fifty seven thousand six hundred twenty eight cases. It was
big news and nineteen. Fifty three oneself published his findings in the Journal of the American Medical Association, so by nineteen. Fifty four
sulk had large amounts of and injectable vaccine, and was right.
For large trials. The pilot programme included fifteen thousand kids in Pittsburgh,
main field trial was massive one,
eight million kids and a U S. Canada and Finland, and grades won through free at two hundred and fifteen test sites. The whole thing is directed by Doktor, Francis sulks Mentor, and
featured a double blind process, which meant that six hundred and fifty thousand people receive the vaccine. Seven earn fifty thousand received a placebo, and
one hundred and thirty thousand received neither and it
Three hundred thousand volunteer is just to get out there and administer all of these vaccines and the record taking Francis ran it. A tight ship, the record keeping was really immaculate all sorts of follow up from these people, but by April nineteen, fifty five, it with official Frances declared thought vaccine to be quite safe, effective and potan, and it becomes
available commercially. Just a few years later and cases in the. U S, the polio dropped immediately. I mean eighty five to ninety percent. There was one big that back, though, in nineteen fifty five, a major scare when two hundred km
were affected by the facts-
in our ended up being traced back to one specific manufacturer? There was not quite dead virus included in the back seat, but ultimately one
it was determined it was from one specific place. People did go back to thought in activated
the virus vaccine, I tv and the last: U S case. The polio occurred in nineteen. Seventy nine in and on vaccines,
the amish population and thought essentially became one of the most famous
call heroes of the twentieth century? I read something interesting: his fame
this alienated him from the medical community just because he was so celebrated in
Other researchers felt like they didn't get any credit.
things that they have contributed. So, interestingly, thought continued.
research. I think I'm HIV can a staffing contained
that viral research, but we do
a second vaccine to talk about. We said that there were two,
We said that wine sorted got all the glory, but what about the vaccine made not from the killed virus but from the weak and fire?
Well, if you grew up in the U S and you're a vaccinated before two thousand, you didn't get socks I tv. Instead, you got Albert Savings, oral polio virus vaccine, o pv for short, and if you live outside of the U S or outside of Europe, the almost certainly got, though PV so wired
to and what are the benefits and the dangers of each kind will say then was abolished you who emigrated to America as a child
he had, as we mention discovered in nineteen forty one, that the polio virus was not just a disease of the nervous system, but one of the entire
I'll track societal. I had a problem with sulks idea for a vaccine
even though a while, if prepared correctly socks,
being using. The that killed virus would definitely not give you polio, because I had a dead virus in it. It also might not confer a lifetime of immunity, it wouldn't be a strong, so say they wanted
create something that was stronger, stronger vaccine using live polio virus, although of course that mean certain risk
so instead of just killing the virus and creating a vaccine from there, he experimented on nine thousand monkeys and one hundred gems. We dimension. There were a lot of primates involved here before he found a strain of the virus
reproduced in the intestinal tract, but not in.
The central nervous system making that nineteen forty one discovery pretty important, so this meant that he could
is a live weaker strain of the virus, and from that
create a longer lasting vaccine and there is kind of a strange perk about be Favyn vaccine in that when people,
get go to the bathroom their feces contains
the conversion of the virus, which helps boost
the immunity of the population as a whole, which made it pretty to therapy for areas, will talk about that a little bit more though failing
problem there once he had finally perfected his o pv version of the polio vaccine
is, he was ready to go forward with large scale task right around the time. At socks, vaccine was being celebrated as a medical miracle, so he couldn't find enough. People stateside, who were
to participate his. Why take her is participating in a trial if there is already a good cure out their rights as a prevention, exactly so save and went to the belgian Congo and in the middle of the cold war too,
government gave him a metal further, I mean that's. How badly
They wanted to handle polio. How
had polio was around the world a heavyweight? Let this american guy, a polish jus immigrant, come into the
the union and do this wide scale, medical path, but by the early sixties, Favyn fact thin had caught on in the United States to with cheaper with easier to produce. One big perk is that it did
choir shot because it with an oral vaccine, so that makes it easier to administer to and it became
completely vital for world eradication efforts which really took off in the nineteen seventy entered,
Poleos Endemic only in Nigeria, India, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Of the three types of
missus. Poyser virus, too, is probably eradicated. The last case to the last night,
case was in India and ninety. Ninety nine
polio virus. Three is probably also close to ratification here and in two thousand in the. U S switch back to I pv after it was determined that you were
it wasn't worth the risk any more having that lie virus in o pv, because your risk of contracting polio in North America, while polio, was just pretty much nothing
you were only likely did too, maybe pick it up. If you went to one of those countries where is still endemic, though the? U S which back to I Pv, but there still
a big hurdle in eliminating polio in some of those remaining countries in that sphere,
and suspicion just not knowing exactly wait. What people
coming into do in their administering these Opie. These yes, for example,
You two thousand three. The World Health organization launched a huge campaign to vaccinate fifteen million kids in Nigeria, but leaders
spread were that vaccines had been mixed with anti fertility, drugs and the HIV virus. So the world. How
organization has started from the bottom up instead meeting with local leaders and we
Their approval first still foregoing and doing us in order to try to knock out Nigeria of one sort of final
note on the story in the men involved talk in seven both chose not to patent their vaccines mean they could have Polly made huge amounts of money off of this, but they considered the vaccine
a gift to humanity. I was
DE. I enjoyed researching this learning a little bit more about polio. I hadn't know much about favouring at all, which is
rising. Now that I realize what a huge contribution he had, two to eradicating polio in most the world yet
pretty interesting too, and I think, even in this day and age, it's important for people to kind of understand what their dealing with when their dealing with different vaccine.
Is there so much misinformation out there and debate about vaccines today? I think it just helps
We know the better definitely so I am glad that I decided to watch that scary, Halloween movie and inspired me to get rid of her polio. I mean I know what the people have suggested, but I just thought that work.
turn it history. Thirty from nineteen forty involving eight made me want to learn more about the real thing about you back to medical history, again, which we are being until at least recently, and we love talking about medical history and we do have a medical related team also share with you that this message is from
stir and he wrote in you guys suggested we email you. If we listen to your pack castle, doing interesting things. I'm a graduates
cow tat. Getting my phd in chemistry and listen to you guys were working in the lab. I was listening to your podcast, in which he mentioned the fantasy. Dissolve two Nobel prizes in our region. Tat keep them from the not. I keep a bottle the same stuff on my bench in lab and he's already on a weekly basis, though usually not dissolve Nobel prizes. It's really helpful in cleaning really dirty glassware, because it was the doll metals, but not the glass itself. Its great stuff, though super smelly and pretty dangerous that you wouldn't want to use it to clean your dirty dishes at home, which makes me think of
whole another mad scientist, tight movie, one who uses when you come
relations to do the dishes, which one is that oh, no, I just wanna making up. I had now, let's go their kids and write it too plain and ok, so that wasn't medical related, but it was science really alliance related and that it fit well enough with polio so
you Christopher, that was fun, fun note to share, and if any other folks right, I suggest medical topic suggest any other kind of topics. You can find us history podcast at how stuff works. Dot com
we are also in Twitter, missed in history, and we aren't Facebook and if you want to learn a little bit more about back scenes with some of the facts and the myths surrounding them, you can look up an article called how vaccines work on our website by visiting us a W W w dont. How suffered Stockholm restored, to check out our new video pot gas stuff from the Future Joint House
staff as we explore them as promising and perplexing possibilities of tomorrow. The House of Lords Iphone has arise, download it today and I do.
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