An estimated 4.5 billion cases of polio, measles, mumps, rubella, varicella, adenovirus, rabies, and hepatitis A were prevented and 10...


An estimated 4.5 billion cases of polio, measles, mumps, rubella, varicella, adenovirus, rabies, and hepatitis A were prevented and 10 million lives saved by the 1962 creation of the WI-38 human cell strain used in the production of vaccines



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  • In case anyone was wondering, this is not related to the HeLa line from Henrietta Lacks. The WI-38 line was obtained from an aborted fetus: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WI-38

  • This is history that should be taught somehow in every high school level science program. How quick modern society forgets that we are only 50 to 70 years past mass maiming and early deaths due to diseases.

  • [S. J Olshansky, L. Hayflick, The Role of the WI-38 Cell Strain in Saving Lives and Reducing Morbidity. *AIMS Public Health*. **4**, 127–138 (2017).](https://dx.doi.org/10.3934/publichealth.2017.2.127)

    > **Abstract:** The modern success story of vaccinations involves a historical chain of events that transformed the discovery that vaccines worked, to administering them to the population. We estimate the number of lives saved and morbidity reduction associated with the discovery of the first human cell strain used for the production of licensed human virus vaccines, known as WI-38. The diseases studied include poliomyelitis, measles, mumps, rubella, varicella (chicken pox), herpes zoster, adenovirus, rabies and Hepatitis A. The number of preventable cases and deaths in the U.S. and across the globe was assessed by holding prevalence rates and disease-specific death rates constant from 1960–2015. Results indicate that the total number of cases of poliomyelitis, measles, mumps, rubella, varicella, adenovirus, rabies and hepatitis A averted or treated with WI-38 related vaccines was 198 million in the U.S. and 4.5 billion globally (720 million in Africa; 387 million in Latin America and the Caribbean; 2.7 billion in Asia; and 455 million in Europe). The total number of deaths averted from these same diseases was approximately 450,000 in the U.S., and 10.3 million globally (1.6 million in Africa; 886 thousand in Latin America and the Caribbean; 6.2 million in Asia; and 1.0 million in Europe).

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  • I worked with them and the SV40 transformed line SVWI-38, for my Masters. You really come to hate certain names when you have to write it out 100 times in a few hours….

  • The future of vaccines is very bright, and I am very glad we continue to have the tools to continue making huge advancements in efficacious and safe vaccines.

    Note: I am very happy with the mods on this thread, I love you guys.

  • Some questions:

    – How do you build this cell line? Is it a group of cells that keeps dividing? How do you keep it for so long?

    – Has there been any study on what kind of mutations happened in this cell line over time?

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  • The program was a mess back then too, even Dr Maurice Hilleman said that vaccine science at the time was “the bargain basement technology of the 20th century”

    Dr Edward Shorter: Tell me how you found SV40 and the polio vaccine.

    Dr Maurice Hilleman: Well, that was at Merck. Yeah, I came to Merck. And uh, I was going to develop vaccines. And we had wild viruses in those days. You remember the wild monkey kidney viruses and so forth? And I finally after 6 months gave up and said that you cannot develop vaccines with these damn monkeys, we’re finished and if I can’t do something I’m going to quit, I’m not going to try it. So I went down to see Bill Mann at the zoo in Washington DC and I told Bill Mann, I said “look, I got a problem and I don’t know what the hell to do.” Bill Mann is a real bright guy. I said that these lousy monkeys are picking it up while being stored in the airports in transit, loading, off loading. He said, very simply, you go ahead and get your monkeys out of West Africa and get the African Green, bring them into Madrid unload them there, there is no other traffic there for animals, fly them into Philadelphia and pick them up. Or fly them into New York and pick them up, right off the airplane. So we brought African Greens in and I didn’t know we were importing the AIDS virus at the time.

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  • 4.5 Billion? Overhalf the population of the earth?

  • This comment has me wondering…

    “Before then, many viral vaccines had been grown in monkey cells, but contamination with potentially dangerous monkey viruses forced an end to production, leaving millions vulnerable to common diseases.”

    Is it possible that HIV spread from monkeys to humans this way? If so, I can see why it would’ve been kept quiet. (Not that I agree with that)

  • Thank you for all of your comments. The work of Dr. Hayflick from the early 1960s was truly groundbreaking in its influence on public health, along with a host of other developments in the chain of events required to make vaccines work. Many of us literally owe our lives to these vaccines. As any FYI to those who asked, the numbers reported in the manuscript are cumulative from 1963 through 2015, and truth-be-told, these are likely to be underestimates because we assumed prevalence rates in the U.S. prevailed elsewhere.
    S. Jay Olshansky, Ph.D.

  • Wasn’t the Polio vaccine created usong the HeLa cell line?

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  • 4.5billion people… that’s just insane

  • There’s a new book called The Vaccine Race all about this.

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