COUNCIL CHRONICLE – The creation of a smallpox vaccine has helped completely eradicate this disease back in the 1980s. However, until now, researchers weren’t really sure what was its actual origin. Namely, this could have been based on similar, but different, virus strains.
Hundred Years Old Smallpox Vaccine Offers New Answers
According to records, a vaccine for smallpox was first developed back in 1980 by Edward Jenner, a physician. The first of its kind, and also very effective, it eventually helped pave the way to the eradication of the disease in 1980.
A vaccine basically works by exposing the body to a weakened or modified version of the targeted virus. This way, the immune system gets better at recognizing and fighting against it in case of another encounter later on.
Scientists looked to try and understand what viruses were affecting people in the 1930s, and how they worked. But further investigations showed that, contrary to their assumption, the smallpox vaccine was not based on the cowpox virus.
So a team of researchers analyzed and tested a small smallpox vaccine. Dating from 1902, this 85 years old vaccine was used to try and identify its origin. To do so, the scientists tested the basis of its DNA.
In doing so, they found that, instead of the cowpox virus, this was created by using the horsepox one. The study team states that their analysis helps prove a long suspected theory, one revolving around the “suspected role” of the horsepox virus.
They then continued by saying that it might also offer proof as to one of the possible and likely probable medical practices of the 19th century. The researchers believe that inocula derived from horsepox and cowpox might have been “used interchangeably” to immunize people against smallpox.
“The identification of a link between 19th century and modern smallpox vaccines strengthens the hypothesis that the horsepox virus may be the ancestor of the vaccinia lineage,” claims the team.
Robert Koch Institute in Germany researchers, led by Livia Schrick, are behind this latest study. Detailed study results are available in a paper in the New England Journal of Medicine.
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