Definition of German measles (historical note)

German measles (historical note): In 1941 N. M. Gregg, an Australian ophthalmologist, recognized that infection of the mother with German measles (rubella) during early pregnancy could malform an embryo and cause a characteristic syndrome of congenital malformations. The first feature Dr. Greeg noticed was cataracts. Gregg published his pioneering observations in 1942.

Rapid progress in understanding rubella, however, was not possible until the rubella virus could be grown and demonstrated in tissue culture This feat was reported in 1962 by Weller and Neva and by Parkman, Buescher and Artenstein. It could then be learned that if a pregnant woman acquires rubella, the virus persists throughout her pregnancy, is still present at birth, and continues to be shed by her infected child for many months after birth. Even if the child born with rubella looks normal, the child can be contagious and infect nurses, doctors, medical students, and others caring for it.

In its "Milestones In the History of Medicine" The New York Times Almanac for 1966 notes that: "Paul Parkman and Harry Myer (Americans develop vaccine for rubella (German measles)." In reality, several vaccines against rubella were developed and tested. Other contributors included Lepow, Veronelli, Hostetler, and Robbins. Frederick Robbins subsequently shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1954, albeit for the "discovery of the ability of poliomyelitis viruses to grow in cultures of various types of cells." (Robbins shared the prize with John Enders and Thomas Weller). Tissue culture was the key to understanding and preventing such scourges as polio and congenital rubella.


Last Editorial Review: 6/14/2012

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