THE HOPE that accompanies the renewed attempts at immunization against poliomyelitis is due in large part to the convergence of 3 events. The first is a succession of important advances in methodology; the second, an improved understanding of the disease process itself; and the third, the revival of general immunologic concepts which had been well established for other viral diseases, but which had been discredited in relation to poliomeyitis for many years.
I should like to examine briefly some of the basic findings relating to the mode of action of immunization procedures now being developed in this field. Immunization against most diseases has long been known to rest on 2 distinct but related aspects of infection; first, the behavior of the parasite in the host tissues; and second, the immunological responses of the host, especially its production of antibody. Although our understanding of the mechanism of infection is as yet incomplete, our present model, as summarized in Figure 1, is based on solid information and should be adequate for practical purposes. It is clear enough that 2 of the principal places where virus multiplies are, first, certain unknown tissues in the upper and lower parts of the alimentary tract and, second, nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. Approximately 90 per cent of adults in this country have experienced the primary infection in the alimentary tract without harm to themselves. About 1 per cent by the age of 20 have also experienced the paralytic effects of the subsequent infection in the central nervous system (CNS).
- Received October 8, 1954.
- Copyright © 1955 by the American Academy of Pediatrics