The man with 40 vaccines

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MEDICINE STORIES – One night in 1963, a little girl suffered from mumps. His father, the microbiologist Maurice Hilleman, will obtain one of the vaccine strains among the most used still today.

American microbiologist Maurice Hilleman has developed or improved more than 40 vaccines.
American microbiologist Maurice Hilleman has developed or improved more than 40 vaccines. Walter Reed Army Medical Center

In the suburbs of Philadelphia, a 5-year-old girl wakes up her dad in the middle of the night. Her throat hurts. The father does not worry for long: little Jeryl Lynn sports the very characteristic “hamster cheeks” associated with mumps, a viral infection usually mild in children. Maurice Hilleman sends his daughter back to bed.

But on March 21, 1963, the microbiologist, head of the research department for new viruses and cell biology at Merck, struggled to get back to sleep. An idea runs through his head … What if he develops a vaccine against mumps? Because, if it is benign in children, the disease is not in adults. The army even made it a priority during the war: the painful testicular inflammations caused by the disease after puberty are able to put battalions of soldiers to bed. A mumps vaccine does exist, developed at the end of World War II by Americans Karl Habel and John

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