Pioneer of polio vaccination dies

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The Independent Online
La Jolla, California (AFP) - Jonas Salk, who tamed the scourge of polio by developing the first vaccine against the disease, died yesterday, a spokeswoman for the Salk Institute said. He was 80 years old.

Defying conventional thinking, Salk used killed virus to develop the polio vaccine in the 1950s while working at the University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania. Later in his life, he devoted his energy to the search for a vaccine-like Aids treatment that also met with scepticism in the scientific community.

Paralytic poliomyelitis epidemics wreaked havoc over the US in the early part of this century. The disease could kill or leave victims bound to wheel chairs, leg braces and iron lungs.

A 1955 declaration that Salk's injectable vaccine was effective and its subsequent use caused the toll to drop dramatically.

Dr Albert Sabin's live-virus vaccine, approved in 1961, is considered more effective by many experts, but Salk's still remains in use.

Salk retired in 1984 from the Institute for Biological Studies which he founded in 1963 in the La Jolla suburb of San Diego.

He co-founded Immune Response Corp. of Carlsbad, California, in 1986 to search for an Aids vaccine which was aimed at preventing or delaying the development of Aids symptoms in patients who are already infected with the HIV virus.

Salk attempted to base his Aids vaccine on the polio model by using killed Aids virus. He had hoped to develop an injection to prevent uninfected people from getting the virus.

"My own view is we will overcome," Salk said earlier this year. "I am a perennial optimist."We certainly have the knowledge. The question is whether we have the wisdom."