Albert Bruce Sabin


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US microbiologist, born in Poland, who developed the oral vaccine against poliomyelitis that is still widely used and is named after him.

Born in Bialystok (now in Poland), Sabin emigrated with his family to the USA in 1921. He attended New York University, receiving his BS degree in 1928 and his MD three years later. In 1935 he joined the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research and in 1939 was appointed associate professor of paediatrics at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, later becoming professor (1946–60) and, in 1971, emeritus professor.

During World War II, Sabin joined the US army medical corps to develop vaccines against dengue and Japanese encephalitis that were afflicting combat troops in the Pacific. He also isolated the protozoan responsible for toxoplasmosis. After the war, Sabin identified the three types of virus that were causing poliomyelitis in the USA and developed a vaccine using live viruses that had been rendered harmless by laboratory treatment. (This contrasted with the killed-virus vaccine produced by Jonas Salk in 1953.) After initial trials with volunteer prisoners, the first large-scale trials were conducted in the Soviet Union. Not only was the Sabin vaccine proved safe, it was also easily administered orally and conferred long-lasting immunity against the disease. By the 1960s it had superseded the Salk vaccine throughout the world.

Sabin also worked on the relationship between viruses and cancer. He was consultant to the World Health Organization from 1969 until his retirement in 1986 and served as research professor of biomedicine at the University of South Carolina Medical College (1974–82) and thereafter as emeritus professor.

Subjects: Contemporary History (Post 1945).

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