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(dob - )
Year of Discovery: 1987, 1990
Part of Team that Created Remarkable Hib Vaccine
Schneerson teamed with colleague John Robbins at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development to develop the Haemophilus Influenzae type b (Hib) vaccine. Hib is the bacterium that causes Hib disease, and most commonly manifests as bacterial meningitis. Bacterial meningitis can be a devastatingly serious disease that typically strikes young children under the age of two. Since Schneerson and Robbins' successful development of the Hib vaccine, Hib disease has been virtually eradicated in the United States, with its incidence rate having fallen a remarkable 99 percent.
Haemophilus Influenzae type b (Hib) disease is an invasive disease that primarily affects children under the age of five. This is because these children lack the natural antibodies that children over the age of five and adults have to fight against Hib. Hib is thought to be an airborne disease, spread through the respiratory droplets expelled during coughing and sneezing. The most common result of Hib is bacterial meningitis, although it can also cause epiglottitis (infection and swelling of the throat), pneumonia, arthritis, and other serious conditions. Meningitis causes fever, headaches, stiffness in the neck, vomiting and, in severe cases, seizures. Both meningitis and epiglottitis may result in death. Even when death is avoided, permanent brain damage occurs in about 30 percent of meningitis cases. The majority of cases of Hib-caused meningitis occur in children under two years of age. In 1980, prior to the introduction of the Hib vaccine, there were 20,000 cases of Hib reported in the United States. Today, Hib has been virtually eradicated from the U.S., with only 341 cases being reported between 1996 and 2000. Unfortunately, due to the lack of widespread vaccination, Hib continues to be a scourge in other areas of the world. It is estimated that Hib kills 400,000 children worldwide annually.
The first vaccine Schneerson and Robbins created was a pure polysaccharide vaccine. Polysaccharides are chains of sugars, and they form the shell of the Hib bacterium. Schneerson and Robbins found that this vaccine was capable of producing an immune response in older children and adults, but not in infants less than 18 months. They next developed a so-called conjugate vaccine, in which they joined the polysaccharide capsule with a protein that allows the infant's immune system to recognize the vaccine and produce antibodies against Hib. The first vaccine, for older children and adults, was approved for use in 1987. The second, for use with younger infants, was approved in 1990. Schneerson and Robbins' ingenuity has paid tremendous dividends, saving tens of thousands of young lives and preventing lifelong disability for many more.
Introduction by Tim Anderson
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Press release announcing Schneerson' receiving the Lasker Award:
The Lasker Foundation profile of Schneerson's research:
StopGettingSick.com article about Schneerson's research with Typhoid vaccine:
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