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Sabin, Albert (Bruce)

vaccine live attenuated war

[ say bin] (1906–93) US virologist and developer of an oral poliomyelitis vaccine.

Polish by birth, the Sabin family emigrated to the USA in 1921, and Albert Sabin studied at New York Medical School. During the Second World War he devised vaccines for the US army, notably one against dengue fever. After the war, working at the University of Cincinnati, he attacked the problem of finding a safe and effective live attenuated vaccine against polio. This disease was then a major problem, with 57 000 mainly young cases in the USA in 1952. J E Salk (1914–95) used culture methods due to to develop in the 1950s a dead vaccine, killed by formaldehyde, which was widely used despite the difficulty that it needed several injections to give protection and was only 80–90% effective.

Sabin’s live vaccine was attenuated by culture in monkey kidney tissue and could be given by mouth as a single dose on a sugar lump. After trials with volunteers in an Ohio reformatory, Sabin persuaded the USSR to use it on a large scale in the late 1950s. It was quickly seen as better than Salk’s vaccine: the US public health service approved it in 1960 and the UK changed to Sabin’s vaccine in 1962. The two men were highly competitive. Sabin continued to work on viruses, and was awarded the US National Medal of Science in 1970.

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