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20467.  Wed May 18, 2005 9:21 am Reply with quote

I'm buggered if I can see how to make a question out of this, but it's a QI piece of information that I just read in this month's Scientific American.

The lack of refrigeration was, and remains, a problem in vaccinating poor people in third world countries, because drugs often lose efficacy in the heat. One novel solution to this problem 200 years ago (not long after Jenner discovered that cowpox infection acts as a vaccine against smallpox) was transporting the vaccine in orphan children.

In 1803 a military doctor, Francisco Xavier de Balmis, sailed from Spain to take Jenner's vaccine to the New World, where Spanish colonies were being devastated by smallpox. To preserve the vaccine, de Balmis harvested it from the 22 orphan children he brought along. He infected one child and waited about 10 days until the pustules formed. He then took the fluid from the lesions and inoculated it into another child, continuing the cycle with each successive immunisation. In this way, the vaccine reached Puerto Rico, Mexico and Venezuela, where de Balmis taught local doctors how to apply and propagate the vaccine.

De Balmis continued on to Spain's colonies in Asia, picking up new children along the way and finding homes for the others now vaccinated. He returned home in 1806, while an assistant, Jose Salvany, reached Colombia, Peru and Chile.

Guillermo Diague, a historian of science at the University of Granada in Spain, calculated that "Four or five years after de Balmis, between 100,000 and half a million people could have been immunised. That marked the beginning of the end of the epidemic."

Did anybody ask about medical ethics...?

32318.  Fri Nov 18, 2005 10:38 am Reply with quote

i think i saw that on emmerdale farm!


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