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Year of Discovery: 1958
He Weakened the Measles Virus Enough to Make it Work in a Vaccine
The call to participate in groundbreaking scientific discovery is hard to resist. That was certainly the case for Milan Milovanovic, a young researcher at the Institute of Hygiene in Belgrade, Yugoslavia. When given the chance to join John Ender's team to search for a measles vaccine, he took a leave of absence and headed for the United States. The team was working on isolating the measles virus, which they'd collected from the infected eleven-year-old son of a colleague. After they successfully isolated the virus, they began the arduous task of passaging the virus through human cells in the lab. Known as cell culture, it involves growing the virus in a broth with human cells. As the virus grows and multiplies, the solution must be continually changed and split to allow for the new viruses growing. This is known as a passage. Their goal was to take the viruses through enough passages to weaken it sufficiently to allow it to trigger an immune system response that produced antibodies to fight measles, but without causing the actual disease. This pursuit became Milovanovic's full-time pursuit for the next three years. His tireless effort paid off. Testing conducted in 1958 proved the live-virus vaccine would neutralize the measles virus.
Measles is caused by a virus and is one of the most contagious diseases known. The virus normally grows in the cells lining the back of the throat and those lining the lungs. The first sign of infection is a high fever lasting one to seven days. During this initial stage the patient may develop multiple symptoms, including a runny nose, cough, red and watery eyes, and small white spots inside the cheeks. A rash develops after several days, typically beginning on the face and upper neck, and then spreading to the hands and feet. Poorly nourished children are at an increased risk of contracting a severe case of measles, especially those who have a vitamin A deficiency or whose immune system is compromised. Childhood deaths are usually caused by the complications associated with measles, rather than by the disease itself. The most serious complications include blindness, encephalitis, severe diarrhea, ear infections and severe respiratory infections--such as pneumonia, which is the most common cause of death associated with measles.
Despite the availability of a safe and effective vaccine for the past several decades, measles continues to be a leading cause of death among children in the developing world. It's estimated that 242,000 people, many of them children, died from measles in 2006. But, vaccination has played a major role, with an estimated 478 million children having received the measles vaccine between 2000 and 2006. As a result, there has been a significant reduction in estimated global measles deaths. Overall, global measles mortality decreased by 68% between 2000 and 2006, with the largest decreases occurring in Africa, where measles cases and deaths fell by 91%.
Table of ContentsIntroduction
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Key Experiment or Research
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Networks of Innovation, by Galambos, referencing Milovanovic:
Measles, by Griffin, referencing Milovanovic:
Biographical Memoirs , by the National Academy of Sciences, referencing Milovanovic:
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The Science Behind the Discovery
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