Other Talks in the Series: The Immune System - Key Concepts and Questions

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Hello, my name is Anthony Rees. I'm a chemist turned biochemist. I was a university lecturer in molecular biophysics at the University of Oxford and later Professor and Head of biochemistry at the University of Bath. My field of interest is immunology with a special intereste in antibodies. Since 2012, I've been writing about the history of antibodies and more recently vaccines. The lectures in this three-part series relate to the history of vaccines. In January of 2022 last year, my book on the history of vaccines was published and it's from this book that I've selected a few examples with pathogens that have afflicted the human population over thousands of years. We'll look at some of the early curative and often crude measures used before the advent of modern medical technologies. And in particular, the seismic effect of vaccines on preventing human disease and reducing mortality.
In this second lecture, we'll be looking at the history of vaccines for three different diseases. Measles and poliomyelitis caused by viruses and tuberculosis a bacterial disease.
On the title, I've indicated measles, still a serious disease of childhood, which might surprise you.
Measles and rubella, sometimes or maybe more commonly called German measles are exanthematous diseases. You can see that derives from Greek. They're characterized by simultaneous skin eruptions in different parts of the body. Mumps as well joins them as three diseases caused by RNA viruses. Measles, which technically is called rubeola, and mumps are paramyxoviruses from that family, but sit in different genera that family, while rubella is a togavirus. Just to note, rubeola for measles is not commonly used since it can be easily confused with rubella, so we'll call it measles from now on. None of the three viruses is known to have an animal host yet. The need for prevention of infection with the measles virus is critical for avoidance of a highly contagious disease that during 2019 caused more than 200,000 deaths globally. That's data from the WHO and the US Centers for Disease Control, mainly among children under the age of five. You can see from the slide, if you just look at the top 2 colours in the right-hand list, that more than a 1000 deaths or infections per annum occur in something like 38 percent of the countries in the world. It's not as if measles has gone away. Often the infection leads to complications affecting around 30 percent of infected individuals. Complications include diarrhoea around one in 12 cases, otitis media inflammation of the middle ear, that's one in 14, pneumonia one in 17 and in rare cases acute encephalitis, around one in 1000 cases.