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August 12, 1983

The Virus of Poliomyelitis: From Discovery to Extinction

Author Affiliations

From The Salk Institute for Biological Studies, San Diego.

JAMA. 1983;250(6):808-810. doi:10.1001/jama.1983.03340060086037

Gustavson1 defined science as that body of knowledge obtained by techniques that enable us to place limiting values on our preconceptions. A review of what we now know about poliomyelitis reveals a list of preconceptions that have been modified with the help of techniques developed to examine them. When ideas are transformed in this way, it is oftentimes difficult to understand why we thought as we did previously.

It was once believed that (1) poliomyelitis was not an infectious disease, (2) the virus reached the CNS via nerve pathways and not via the bloodstream, (3) the virus was strictly neurotropic, unlikely of cultivation in nonneural tissue, and (4) the prevention of the disease could not be accomplished by a noninfectious virus vaccine because it was also believed that (5) the process of infection was required for inducing effective and durable immunity.

The scientific investigation of these and other questions