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Grace Eldering

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Grace Eldering

(September 5, 1900 - August 31, 1988)
Born in the United States
Year of Discovery: 1938

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Developed Vaccine that Whoops Whooping Cough!


Childhood memories are often powerful reminders of significant events that shape future lives. For Grace Eldering, the childhood memories that shaped her life were filled with pain. She was beset withcaught  whooping cough when she was just five years old, and she never forgot the persistent, painful coughing. She went on to study biology and chemistry, and spent her career searching for ways to ease the suffering of others. She began her career in Lansing, Michigan. Unable to find a paying position fresh out of college, she simply volunteered her time in the laboratory for the first six months. Her service was rewarded and she was given a paid position in Grand Rapids, where she joined forces with Pearl Kendrick. The duo would revolutionize the treatment of whooping cough, known as pertussis to scientists since that is the name of the bacteria that causes it.



Measles, scarlet fever, tuberculosis, diphtheria, polio... These are all dreadful diseases, but none claimed as many young lives in the United States in the1920s as whooping cough. Whooping cough is an upper respiratory infection, often beginning quite mildly. The initial common cold-like symptoms worsen over the first couple of weeks, resulting in the production of thick mucus and severe coughing bouts. The coughing bouts cause children to lose their breath, turn red, and sometimes vomit. At the end of the bout, the child may desperately suck in air, resulting in the "whooping" noise for which the disease is named. Potentially life-threatening complications include dehydration, pneumonia, pulmonary hypertension (a restriction of the arteries within the lungs), and bacterial infections.

At its height, whooping cough claimed over 6,000 lives each year in the United States. Remarkably, during the 1940s, it was responsible for the deaths of more infants than polio, measles, tuberculosis, and all other childhood diseases combined. Chicago officials were so alarmed that they required infected children, following a two-week quarantine period, to be accompanied by an attendant and to wear a yellow armband with the words "Whooping Cough" written in large black letters on it.

In 1932 using Grand Rapids as a self-contained clinical trial, Eldering and Kendrick began, in 1932, with a small group of local physicians. Eldering worked tirelessly, volunteering her expertise and her labor, often working long into the night after completing her normal workday. "We learned about the disease and the depression at the same time," Eldering remembered. "We collected specimens by the light of kerosene lamps, from whooping, vomiting, strangling children. We saw what the disease could do."1 Her childhood memories compelled her to find keep searching for a solution to ease the suffering of the children of her day. When they finally had a vaccine, they turned to the local doctors with the first test vaccines. Following promising early results, they conducted a large-scale trial from 1934 to 1937, involving over 5,800 children. The results were stellar, with the children who received the active vaccine demonstrating a strong immunity. By 1943, their vaccine was in routine use throughout the United States, and by the early 1960s the rate of incidence of whooping cough had plummeted to less than five percent of the 1934 rate. In 1942, Eldering and Kendrick combined three vaccines into a single shot, the Diphtheria, Pertussis, and Tetanus (DPT) vaccine.

Though whooping cough deaths in the United States have been reduced to a handful each year, pertussis continues to be a killer in the developing nations of the world. The World Health Organization estimates over 39 million cases occur worldwide each year, resulting in close to 300,000 deaths.

1 Marks HM (2006). The Kendrick-Eldering-(Frost) pertussis vaccine field trial. The James Lind Library (www.jameslindlibrary.org). Accessed Tuesday 9 September 2008.

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Introduction by Tim Anderson



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Table of Contents

Introduction
Links to More Information About the Scientist
Key Insight
Key Experiment or Research
Key Contributors
Quotes by the Scientist
Quotes About the Scientist
Anecdotes
Similar Scientists
Fun Trivia About The Science
The Science Behind the Discovery
Personal Information
Science Discovery Timeline
Recommended Books About the Science
Books by the Scientist
Books About the Scientist
Awards
Major Academic Papers
Curriculum Vitae
Links to Science and Related Information on the Subject
Sources

 








Links to More About the Scientist & the Science

The Michigan Women's Hall of Fame profile:

Michigan.gov profile of Eldering and Kendrick:

BNET article detailing Eldering & Kendrick's Grand Rapids pertussis trials:

jameslindlibrary.org summary of the Grand Rapids pertussis trials:



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Key Insight




Key Experiments or Research

 



Key Contributors

The Team
Explore other scientists who furthered this lifesaving advance.
Lifesavers: Whooping Cough Vaccine
Pearl Kendrick
Kendrick was tenacious in her pursuit of a cure for whooping cough.




Quotes by the Scientist




Quotes About the Scientist




Anecdotes



 

Similar Scientists

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Women Science Heroes

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Mary Ellen Avery

Discovered the cause of Respiratory Distress Syndrome

Avery's discovery was crucial in the fight against the deadly children's disease Respiratory Distress Syndrome.

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Rachel Schneerson

Created vaccines to fight Hib disease

Schneerson's vaccines fought Hib disease, the leading cause of bacterial meningitis in young children.

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Ann Holloway

Helped John Enders develop the measles vaccine

Holloway was John Enders' "most able technician and associate" in the search for a measles vaccine.

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Anna Mitus

Helped John Enders develop the measles vaccine

Mitus' expertise was critical in the development of the measles vaccine.

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Grace Eldering

Developed the Whooping Cough (Pertussis) Vaccine

Eldering survived the deadly whooping cough disease at age five.

More...
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Pearl Kendrick

Developed the whooping cough (pertussis) vaccine

Kendrick was tenacious in her pursuit of a cure for whooping cough.

More...
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Fun Trivia About the Science




The Science Behind the Discovery



Personal Information



Scientific Discovery Timeline




Recommended Books About the Science




Books by the Scientist




Books About the Scientist

 



Awards




Major Academic Papers Written by the Scientist



Curriculum Vitae



Links to Information on the Science





Sources/References