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Berl Munch Tierarztl Wochenschr. 1999 Sep;112(9):322-8.

[Historical review of smallpox, the eradication of smallpox and the attenuated smallpox MVA vaccine].

[Article in German]

Author information

  • 1Lehrstuhl für Mikrobiologie und Seuchenlehre, Tierärztliche Fakultät, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München.


After the WHO had declared smallpox to be eradicated in 1980, smallpox vaccination ceased to be carried out in humans all over the world. The cutaneous inoculations carried out with live vaccines based on the vaccinia virus from 1798 onwards protected both the global population and, indirectly, the animals living with humans against orthopox infections in general. A large percentage of humans and animals no longer enjoy this protection. Idiopathic orthopox in animals (reservoir possibly rats and mice) are thus experiencing a renaissance, posing a threat to humans and animals. The paper provides an historical retrospective of smallpox epidemics in humankind, their course of development and methods employed to combat this disease, commencing long before the birth of Christ with primitive attempts in China and India and from the end of the 18th century with increasingly enhanced methods, most recently with worldwide smallpox vaccination programmes using live vaccinia vaccines. Smallpox vaccination was always accompanied by a variety of complications, especially postvaccinal encephalitis. The MVA strain was developed to reduce or prevent such adverse effects. MVA has meanwhile proved its worth both as a parenteral vaccine against orthopox infections in humans and animals and as a vector for insertion of foreign genes. The history of smallpox, the fight against this disease and the development of MVA are documented with the help of figures and tables.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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