"Scientists have created new strains of polio intended to protect workers in factories that make polio vaccine," the New York Times reports. "The new strains have the same ability to invoke an immune reaction as the live viruses now used to make vaccine do, but there is virtually no risk anyone will get polio if one of the new strains somehow escapes," the newspaper notes, adding, "The research team, at the State University of New York at Stonybrook, is led by Eckard A. F. Wimmer, a molecular geneticist who made headlines in 1991 when he synthesized polio virus in the lab from its chemical components, the first time a virus had been made outside of living cells."
"Currently, factories making the injectable Salk vaccine used in the United States and Europe start with the dangerous wild-type viruses known as Types 1, 2 and 3," the New York Times notes. "After growing a large batch, vaccine makers 'kill' the virus with formaldehyde and prepare it for syringes," the newspaper writes, adding, "The finished product is safe, but if the growing live viruses ever escaped 'because of a leak, an explosion, an earthquake, a tsunami, a flood,' Dr. Wimmer said, 'the spill could spread like wildfire'" (McNeil, 2/18).
This article was reprinted from kaiserhealthnews.org with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.