Mar 23, 2012

Polio vaccine creator Victor J. Cabasso dies

Dr. Victor J. Cabasso, a pioneer virologist and immunologist who worked on creating the polio vaccine and other vaccines against human and animal virus diseases, died Feb. 28 at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Walnut Creek. He was 96.
In his earliest days in America he became noted for his experiments in developing the altered live polio viruses that led to the live virus vaccine now widely used around the world.
Born in Port Said, Egypt, Dr. Cabasso came to the United States after World War II and was a leading researcher at two major research-based drug and vaccine companies before retiring in 1980 to teach French literature in local schools as a community volunteer.

When the German army invaded France at the beginning of World War II, Dr. Cabasso was a young research fellow at the Pasteur Institute in Paris. He earned his degree as a doctor of science in 1941 jointly from the famed Sor-bonne and the University of Algiers, and then fled to Tunis, where he continued his fellowship at the Pasteur Institute.
In 1944, he joined the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Agency, serving as head of bacteriology and laboratories in the Middle East and Greece. Dr. Cabasso arrived in United States in 1946 at the invitation of an American Army officer serving as a physician with UNRRA who recognized his expertise in the emerging field of virology.
Dr. Cabasso became a research virologist and later chief of immunologic virus research at the Lederle Laboratories in Pearl River,., where he worked until 1967.
In the Lederle lab he and Dr. Albert Sabin created two strains of live polio virus and developed methods for weakening one strain until it could not possibly cause the disease while retaining its complete structure - an achievement that would shortly become known as the Sabin live polio vaccine.
Later Dr. Cabasso joined the Cutter Laboratories in Emeryville to become director of microbiology research and then vice president for research and development before the firm was purchased by the German drug firm Bayer AG.
At Cutter, Dr. Cabasso led a laboratory team that developed the first human antirabies serum after six years of experiments - an achievement that became the first rabies vaccine.

Dr. Cabasso and his family lived in Moraga, and after retiring from Cutter he became director of the Moraga Public Library and took to designing tapestries drawn from sources as varied as Chinese flowers and electron microscope images. They have been widely displayed at local galleries and museums.
He is survived by his wife, Anna; daughter, Jacqueline of Oakland; and son, Phillip, of Sierra Madre (Los Angeles County).
A family celebration of Dr. Cabasso's life is being planned.

David Perlman is The San Francisco Chronicle's science editor.

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México a la vanguardia en el Síndrome de Post Polio

Mar 18, 2012

The Institute of Serology, Calcutta, detected the VDPV on March 2 this year,

Polio blow in Bengal with vaccine lesson

New Delhi, March 17: India has recorded its first case of polio caused by a vaccine-derived poliovirus (VDPV) this year in a five-month-old child in Murshidabad district of Bengal but the country remains free of the wild poliovirus.
A polio surveillance laboratory in Calcutta has found that the child from Lalbag block in Murshidabad was infected by VDPV, which occurs when the weakened virus in the oral polio vaccine (OPV) mutates over time, and regains the ability to cause paralysis.
Surveillance experts say VDPVs are extremely rare and typically occur in children with immunodeficiency or in populations with low levels of immunity. The child in Lalbag has had repeated episodes of infections, indicating the possibility of immunodeficiency, the polio surveillance programme run by the Union health ministry and the World Health Organisation said in an update on VDPVs.
The Institute of Serology, Calcutta, detected the VDPV on March 2 this year, about a week after the WHO deleted India from the list of polio-endemic countries after more than a year free of the wild poliovirus.

Public health experts say India remains free of wild polio, but the local response to VDPVs should be similar to the management of wild poliovirus outbreaks — rapid implementation of local mass immunisation campaigns.
Last year, the surveillance programme detected seven cases of VDPVs — one in a child with congenital immune deficiency in Dhamtari, Chhattisgarh, and the other six from areas with low routine immunisation coverage — Udaipur in Rajasthan, Ghaziabad and Badaun in Uttar Pradesh, Barnala in Punjab, Vidisha in Maharashtra, and Jajpur in Odisha. Rapid immunisation helped prevent the circulation of VDPVs that emerged in India during 2010 and 2011.
A VDPV is a risk associated with OPV that contains live, weakened vaccine virus. A child vaccinated with OPV excretes the vaccine virus for six to eight weeks and, rarely, a vaccine virus may genetically mutate and cause disease in vulnerable children.
“But even one case of VDPV should be viewed as the tip of an iceberg,” said Thekakarra Jacob John, former head of medical virology at the Christian Medical College, Vellore, and former member of a technical group that advises the government on polio.

“Each VDPV is a signal that the vaccine virus from OPV has become wild-like — and the rule in polio is that for every one infection detected, there are perhaps up to 1,000 silent infections,” John told The Telegraph.
The emergence of VDPVs, some of which have circulated and caused outbreaks, in several countries over the past decade, has prompted the WHO to rethink the polio eradication strategy and consider the option of introducing an inactivated polio vaccine (IPV), which contains killed viruses, and thus does not carry the risk of VDPV.

“There’s no alternative — the IPV will have to be introduced to intercept the emergence of VDPVs,” said John, who had in the late-1990s predicted the risks of trying to eradicate wild polio with OPV alone.
A report on VDPVs from the US Centres for Disease Control released last year said more than 400 cases of VDPV had been detected from countries in Africa, Asia and Europe between July 2009 and March 2011.
The Union health ministry has specific guidelines on following up each case of VDPV that include investigations on immunological conditions of each patient, efforts to determine if the VDPV is circulating in the community, and assess the population immunity in the immediate vicinity of the VDPV case.
The National Polio Surveillance Project says the OPV is a very safe and effective vaccine that is protecting millions of children from paralysis caused by the wild virus. The agency said the chance of an importation of the wild poliovirus remains “the larger threat to the children of India”.

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