Salk, Jonas Edward

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Salk, Jonas Edward,

1914–95, American physician and microbiologist, b. New York City, B.S. College of the City of New York, 1934, M.D. New York Univ. College of Medicine, 1939. He did research on the influenza virus at the Univ. of Michigan, in 1946 became assistant professor of epidemiology there, and in 1947 went to the Univ. of Pittsburgh. In 1963 he became director of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies at the Univ. of California in San Diego; he retired in 1975. He was renowned for his work leading the team that developed the first effective vaccine against poliomyelitispoliomyelitis
, polio,
or infantile paralysis,
acute viral infection, mainly of children but also affecting older persons. There are three immunologic types of poliomyelitis virus, one of which was eradicated in 1999; exposure to one type produces immunity
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. The Salk vaccine is made by cultivating three strains of the virus separately in monkey tissue. The virus is separated from the tissue, stored for a week, and killed with formaldehyde; tests are then made to make certain that it is dead. A series of three or four injections with the killed-virus vaccine is required to confer immunity. The vaccine came into wide usage after successful trials carried out on more than a million schoolchildren in 1954.


See biography by C. D. Jacobs (2015).

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