Menu

Modern healthcare as it is today would not be as successful as it has come to be without the scientific contributions from founding researchers

March 12, 2019 0 Comment

Modern healthcare as it is today would not be as successful as it has come to be without the scientific contributions from founding researchers. This research has meant that the world today has fought back against once deadly diseases such as anthrax and tuberculosis (TB), with some diseases such as smallpox being almost completely eradicated from the world with the last remaining specimens under high security. (Anon., 2017) Edward Jenner provided crucial research, paving the way into the development of modern vaccinations as we know, often being referred to as the ‘pioneer of smallpox vaccination and the father of immunology’ (Anon., 2014).
Smallpox is an infectious disease that can be caused by two types of virus variants, either Variola major and Variola minor. (Wikipedia, 2017) Once the disease has been contracted, usually by inhalation, a person will not show the tell-tale signs of the infection until around 12 days. The symptoms of smallpox are often similar to other viral diseases such as the common cold, this may include but not limited to a fever, muscle pain, headache and sometimes nausea and vomiting. Between 12-15 days, small reddish spots that are characteristic of the small pox disease (as seen in Figure 1) which will quickly grow, rupture and continue to spread as more of the virus is released into the saliva. The disease can then develop along different pathways of different variations of the smallpox disease, creating 4 different types of the smallpox virus. The 4 types of smallpox are known as ordinary, modified, malignant (or flat), and haemorrhagic. (Wikipedia, 2017)While in history of smallpox, it typically only has a fatality rate of about 30% before it was eradicated, the malignant (or flat), and haemorrhagic types are usually almost always fatal. (Hogan, 2014) The last case of naturally occurring smallpox was in Somalia in 1977 and has been declared of being fully eradicated worldwide since 1979. (WHO, 2016)
Smallpox has been around thousands of years, thought to have been began in India or Egypt around 3,000 years ago spreading along trade routes in Asia, Africa and Europe even reaching the Americas. (NationalGeographic, 2017) This meant the disease spread rather quickly and in its path took many lives. While there was no direct cure, people began looking on ways to ‘fight’ against smallpox nearly 2,000 years ago, way before Edward Jenner invented vaccinations, using a technique known as variolation. This would often include directly infecting a person with the smallpox virus by “blowing dried scabs up their nose.” This would result in the person experiencing mild symptoms of the disease but also realised following the variolation they now had immunity to smallpox. Despite that between 2 – 3% of people that underwent variolation died, suffered from the disease or even spread it further, it became highly popular, particularly in Europe. (Stefan Riedel, 2005) However the success rate of the practice was not high, and not always successful and upon this realisation, inspired pioneers such as Edward Jenner’s, resulting in him leading to his discovery of the smallpox vaccine.
Edward Jenner was born 17th May 1749, Berkeley in Gloucestershire, England. Jenner was born to the Rev. Stephen Jenner, the vicar of Berkeley and his wife, but around the age of 5 his father passed away and consequently was raised by his eldest brother. As part of his education, Jenner studied under Ludlow, a surgeon at Sodbury, as an apprentice practising pharmacy and surgery (Drewitt, 2013). This opportunity provided the knowledge Jenner would need pave the way for his future, beginning with medical practice in his home country in 1773. It was only later, however that he could begin to develop, and prove, that it was possible to vaccinate a person against a disease having heard a country-woman when he was younger say ‘ I cannot take smallpox, for I have had cowpox’. (Drewitt, 2013)
This lead him to look for a milkmaid who had been infected with cow pox to extract pus from the cow pox lesions as well as subject to test the ‘vaccination’ on. With this in mind, Jenner found Sarah Nelmes, a milkmaid with cow pox lesions formed on her hand (as seen in Figure 2). He then proceeded to extract the pus from these lesions and use the pus to inoculate 8-year-old James Phipps. (Stefan Riedel, 2005) The young boy developed symptoms such as a fever and loss of appetite but just nine days after was healthy again. The following July, Jenner followed with a second inoculation, however (Jenner, (1749-1823)) this time he used pus from a smallpox lesion. Phipps showed no reaction to the smallpox disease, proving the theory of vaccination, in that it was possible to vaccinate against diseases such as small pox. (Anon., 2017)
In 1797, Jenner sent his method of the investigation as well as his observations from the experiment to the Royal Society, this initial paper however was rejected. Following his initial rejection, in response he added a few more cases to the first experiment. This publication received mixed reactions from the medical community. (Stefan Riedel, 2005)
Following further research and test subjects, this method of vaccination spread quickly and by 1800, “it had also reached most European countries.” (Stefan Riedel, 2005) It was found in some cases, later on life many subjects would have to receive a second treatment against smallpox as the disease could still develop in some patients. This continued to progress until in 1980, where the World Health Organisation ‘declared that smallpox was extinct through the world.’ (Trueman, 2015)
With the work of Jenner and vaccinations becoming used worldwide and the proof to the theory renowned, other scientists such a Louis Pasteur and Robert. Developed from the Edward Jenner’s own work, Pasteur helped developed mew vaccines for diseases such as cholera, anthrax and rabies. (Foundation, 2016) Pasteur also showed that the cause of such diseases where due to airborne microbes and the process of pasteurisation was developed, a process that kills microbes by heating up the liquids such as milk. Arguably, it was the work of Jenner that provided Pasteur the knowledge he needed to fuel his discoveries and without this, important crucial techniques such as vaccines and pasteurisation would not exist.
In addition to Jenner’s work creating a foundation for Louis Pasteur, the work of these two scientists also gave rise to the work of Robert Koch. While both Jenner and Pasteur were sure that it was the work of microbes that resulted in disease in humans, they were never be able to make the full connection between microbes and disease – until Robert Koch. With his medical experience as a doctor, Koch had crucial knowledge around the human body and how it worked, a critical quality that resulted in the discoveries that he made. Through his work Koch found two germs that caused anthrax and TB. Following his own successful techniques “by 1900, twenty-one germs that caused diseases had been identified in just 21 years”. (Truemen, 2015)
Edward Jenner’s work is arguably one of the most crucial discoveries made to date that has had worldwide influence and has since been widely developed to be one of the most successful medical break throughs. Now with Jenner’s discovery, many children receive routine vaccines such as in the UK free of charge, protecting them against a large range of diseases. These vaccines include the ‘6-in-1 vaccine’ which children receive aged 8, 12 and 16 weeks (all babies born after 1 August 2017) which was introduced to protect young child from the main six childhood diseases including, diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, polio, Hib (haemophilus influenzae type b) and hepatitis B. (NHS, 2016) It is vaccines like these that increase the likelihood of children growing up healthy and decrease the risk young children being susceptible to potentially fatal diseases unnecessarily.
It is clear that Edward Jenner’s contribution to science through the development of the first vaccine was crucial to modern day medicine. Without Jenner’s discovery of the smallpox vaccine it promotes the question as to whether following scientists such as Louis Pasteur and Robert Koch would have made their own discoveries. Then, without their combined discoveries would diseases such as anthrax and tuberculosis be more prevalent than they are today, would smallpox still be plaguing the earth? Following these thoughts, it is possible that more people would be at higher risk of such diseases, especially children who would have not have access to those crucial vaccines given when they’re young designed to fight off childhood killing diseases. The importance of Edward Jenner’s discovery is undeniable and the world today would not be as it is without his contribution.