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Vladimir Badmaev, MD PhD
Immunology (Latin immunis means providing exemption, protection), or the science of biological defense of our body against disease, is one of the youngest and most dynamic disciplines of modern medicine. The science of immunology was born with the development of the vaccine. It was the English physician Edward Jenner, who in the late 18th century experimentally induced immunity to smallpox in a young patient. He injected the patient with pus from a dairy maid who developed cowpox, a benign disease that resembles smallpox. The treated patient became resistant or immune to a lethal smallpox. Since the time of this famous experiment with cowpox, the procedure to induce resistance or immunity to a disease has been termed vaccination, from the Latin vacca, meaning cow.
In the 1950s efforts of three American scientists Jonas Salk, Hilary Koprowski and Albert Sabin provided one of the most spectacular proofs of the effectiveness of vaccination. Salk, Koprowski and Sabin developed a vaccine against virus causing poliomyelitis (a crippling inflammation of the nervous system) or Heine-Medina disease, virtually eliminating this deadly viral disease worldwide. Meet Robert C. Gallo, MD the eminent scientist who became world famous in 1984 when he co-discovered human immunodeficiency virus, HIV, as the cause of AIDS. He is currently a head of Global Virus Network which coordinates collaboration among virology researchers and social scientists to improve pandemic preparedness and response. According to Dr. Gallo while the work on COVID-specific vaccine continues, the risk of COVID infection can be minimized by applying poliomyelitis virus vaccine (Oral Polio Vaccine or OPV) which, he suggests, maybe safe and effective stimulus of the innate immune response against viral infections including COVID-19 infection (WSJ editorial, July 1, 2020).
The native or innate immune response is body’s first line of defense against infection and could be decisive for our health and survival, especially with aging of the organism when the immune system becomes weakened. This type of response of the organism is non-specific, meaning that it is directed against several viruses or infectious agents – providing an umbrella emergency protection of the body against infection. The native or innate immunity is based on macrophages, which are like foot soldiers on the battlefield, with the ability to recognize a pattern of infectious agents. The pathogens recognized by macrophages trigger responses that assist and guide an appropriate adaptive or specific immunity, including immune response to the potential COVID vaccine. The interaction between the innate and adaptive immune responses is critical for the clinical outcome of a virus challenge to an organism.
The OPV in form of tablets suggested by Dr. Gallo has a 70-year track record of safe use against polio virus infection, with studies indicating that the protective effects from stimulating the innate immunity with OPV may last for up to several months - protecting individuals directly by inducing innate immunity and indirectly by protecting communities from the risk of infection, building-up the “herd immunity” or “community immunity”.
The OPV may exemplify an immunological adjuvant (Latin adjuvare means to help, assist) providing ways to strengthen the individual biological and immune response, resulting in a higher level of protection against a viral infection like COVID-19.