Definition of Sabin, Albert

Reviewed on 6/3/2021

Sabin, Albert: (1906-93) Pioneering researcher on viruses and viral diseases who developed the oral live-virus vaccine against polio. Sabin's vaccine came to be preferred over the alternative killed-virus vaccine developed by his bitter rival Dr. Jonas Salk. The Sabin vaccine contains harmless attenuated polio virus.

Dr. Sabin first showed that polio virus could grow in human nerve tissue outside the human body. Through research on monkeys he discovered how the polio virus entered the human body. It had been widely thought that the virus entered through the respiratory tract. Sabin proved that the virus first invaded the digestive tract and later attacked nerve tissue.

Albert Bruce Sabin was born in Bialystok, Poland. He immigrated with his family to the US in 1921. He graduated from New York University medical school. He trained in pathology, surgery and internal medicine at Bellevue Hospital in New York and spent a year in research at the Lister Institute in London. In 1935 he returned to New York to join the Rockefeller Institute and then in 1939 moved to the University of Cincinnati and its Children's Hospital Research Foundation.

During World War II, Dr. Sabin isolated the virus that causes sandfly fever, an epidemic disease among US troops in Africa. He helped develop a vaccine against dengue fever, a disease then prevalent in the South Pacific. He also studied the parasite that causes that causes toxoplasmosis. A vaccine he developed against Japanese encephalitis virus was given to about 70,000 American troops preparing to invade Japan. Sabin was the first to identify an agent called echovirus 9 as a cause of intestinal disease. At the end of the WW II, Dr. Sabin returned to the University of Cincinnati to continue work on polio. Throughout his career he was noted for diligence, hard work and long hours as well as his brilliance.


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