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(dob - dod)
Born in the United States
Year of Discovery: 1969
Hib is an invasive bacteria. It primarily affects children because they lack the natural antibodies (a molecule people develop to fight a specific disease) that adults and older children have to fight it. It is thought to be an airborne disease, spread through droplets expelled during coughing and sneezing. The most common result of Hib is meningitis, but it can also cause epiglottitis - a swelling of the epiglottis, the flap of tissue that sits at the base of tongue and keeps food from going into the windpipe. If it swells too much, it can cut off air and the patient can suffocate. More rarely, it can also cause arthritis. Of the children affected, most of them are under one – babies really. In 1980, prior to the introduction of the Hib vaccine, there were 20,000 cases reported in the United States. Today, it has been virtually eradicated in the U.S. with only 341 cases 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's estimated that Hib accounts for the death of 400,000 children worldwide annually.
Anderson's colleague, David Smith, had been challenged to "try to find a vaccine to prevent this terrible disease (of meningitis)" by a Harvard professor. It's a challenge he took to heart - and so did Anderson. Their early partnership set in motion a 15-year journey of discovery. Anderson and Smith's work built on earlier discoveries that many bacteria have a protective coat made up of chains of sugar molecules known as polysaccharides. It's these protective coats the immune system attacks. Early results with lab animals, however, were unsatisfactory. So, Anderson and Smith did what many great scientists have done - they became the first human test subjects of their own vaccine. This worked. The pair developed antibodies to Hib in their bloodstream, and this success laid the groundwork for future trials. The first large-scale trial took place in Finland in 1975, and involved 100,000 children. The results were promising, but not perfect. Children older than 18 months received immunity, but those under 18 months did not. This led the pair to develop a second vaccine specifically for use in young infants. Anderson and Smith developed a "conjugate" vaccine to fight against Hib in these infants. A conjugate vaccine joins two substances into a single potion. In this case Anderson combined the polysaccharides from the Hib bacteria with a protein from a second bacteria. It was this introduction of the larger protein that allowed the immune systems of the young infants to recognize the bacteria and to 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. Anderson and Smith's persistence over the years has paid tremendous dividends, saving tens of thousands of young lives and preventing lifelong disability for many more.
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University of Rochester Medical Center news archive:
Porter Anderson mini-biography, Chaperone Technologies:
Lasker Foundation Award Summary:
The Anderson-Rogers Foundation, Inc:
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The Science Behind the Discovery
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