64. Louis Pasteur and The History of the Vaccine

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I think my hand will tremble, – Louis Pasteur

Happy New Year! The Land of Desire is BACK with an exciting – and hopeful – story to set us off on the right track in 2021. Your happy host gets to indulge her love of epidemiology a little bit without leaving you depressed in the middle of a pandemic (she swears). This week, we’re taking a look at one of the greatest French inventions of all time. Along the way, we’ll encounter Catholic masses for dogs, the worst cruise you’ve ever heard of, and a man who came a bit too close to becoming a true mad scientist, Louis Pasteur. We’re at a turning point in medical science, so what better time to look back at how far we’ve come? This week, join me for a closer look at the history of the vaccine.

Episode 64: “Louis Pasteur and the History of the Vaccine”

The history of the vaccine:

Louis Pasteur holding experimental rabbits
Louis Pasteur holding experimental rabbits in his laboratory.

Black and white photograph of Louis Pasteur and Joseph Meister. Meister's treatment was a milestone in the history of the vaccine.
Black and white photograph of Louis Pasteur and Joseph Meister. Meister’s treatment was a milestone in the history of the vaccine.

Black and white photograph of Joseph Meister, taken close to the day of his attack and treatment for rabies.
Black and white photograph of Joseph Meister, taken close to the day of his attack and treatment for rabies.

The history of the vaccine begins with Edward Jenner's cowpox treatment (illustrated 17th lithograph of a gentleman administering treatment to a rural milkmaid rolling up her sleeve)
Edward Jenner consulting local milkmaids about their history of cowpox

Further reading:

Sources:

  • Rabid: A Cultural History of the World’s Most Diabolical Virus – Bill Wasick, Monica Murphy
  • Illness as Metaphor and AIDS And Its Metaphors – Susan Sontag
  • “The first live attenuated vaccines” Caroline Barranco, Nature Research.
  • Alberer M, Gnad-Vogt U, Hong HS, Mehr KT, Backert L, Finak G, Gottardo R, Bica MA, Garofano A, Koch SD, Fotin-Mleczek M, Hoerr I, Clemens R, von Sonnenburg F. Safety and immunogenicity of a mRNA rabies vaccine in healthy adults: an open-label, non-randomised, prospective, first-in-human phase 1 clinical trial. Lancet. 2017 Sep 23;390(10101):1511-1520. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(17)31665-3. Epub 2017 Jul 25. PMID: 28754494.
  • “22 Orphans Gave Up Everything to Distribute the World’s First Vaccine” Sam Kean, The Atlantic.
  • Velasco-Villa A, Mauldin MR, Shi M, et al. The history of rabies in the Western Hemisphere. Antiviral Res. 2017;146:221-232. doi:10.1016/j.antiviral.2017.03.013
  • Kete, Kathleen. “La Rage and the Bourgeoisie: The Cultural Context of Rabies in the French Nineteenth Century.” Representations, no. 22, 1988, pp. 89–107. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/2928412. Accessed 21 Jan. 2021.
  • Historical Perspective of Rabies in Europe and the Mediterranean Basin A.A. King, A.R. Fooks, M. Aubert, A.I. Wandeler (Eds.). OIE, Paris, 2004.
  • “The Rabies Vaccine Backstory” Catherine Offord, The Scientist, June 1 2016.
  • Smith, Kendall A. “Louis pasteur, the father of immunology?.” Frontiers in immunology vol. 3 68. 10 Apr. 2012, doi:10.3389/fimmu.2012.00068
  • The first rabies vaccination in humans, Rino Rappuoli, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Aug 2014, 111 (34) 12273; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1414226111
  • Hansen, Bert. “America’s First Medical Breakthrough: How Popular Excitement about a French Rabies Cure in 1885 Raised New Expectations for Medical Progress.” The American Historical Review, vol. 103, no. 2, 1998, pp. 373–418. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/2649773. Accessed 21 Jan. 2021.
  • Rappuoli, Rino. “Inner Workings: 1885, the first rabies vaccination in humans.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America vol. 111,34 (2014): 12273. doi:10.1073/pnas.1414226111

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