The History of Measles Virus and the Development and Utilization of Measles Virus Vaccines

  • Samuel L. Katz


Although Rhazes, a Persian physician, is credited with the first written ­description of the measles [1], and perhaps with distinguishing between it and smallpox, earlier Hebrew physicians (such as Al Yehudi) had recognized the illness, but without distinction between it and other rash disorders. As urbanization occurred in subsequent centuries, the proximity or larger populations nurtured epidemics with continued circulation of virus in cities. By the seventeenth century, measles was more clearly recognized as a distinct entity as described in 1670 by the London physician, Thomas Sydenham [2]. In 1758, nearly 40 years before Jenner’s description of smallpox vaccine, a Scottish physician, Francis Home, attempted to produce mild measles by mimicking the variolation process used to mitigate smallpox [3]. Because, in contrast to smallpox, there were no vesicles or pustules, he chose to inoculate blood from an infected patient and was able to successfully pass infection with rash to ten of his 12 childhood subjects. Thus, he demonstrated the presence of viremia more than a century before the concept of virus had even been set forth.


Measle Virus Measle Vaccine Subacute Sclerosing Panencephalitis Smallpox Vaccine Attenuate Virus Vaccine 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Duke University School of MedicineDurhamUSA

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