For the January 2014 meeting of the science group, we decided to look into the history of immunisation. There are so many diseases which, only a few years ago, were seriously disabling or disfiguring and a threat to life. Nowadays we, and especially our grandchildren, are freed from the fear of these diseases by our national immunisation programme. Some diseases indeed have been almost or totally eradicated.
To begin, Bill gave us a very lucid overview of how our own bodies fight infection. He introduced us to some of the different types of white blood cells and showed how they home in on the invaders and engulf them. At the same time they cause antibodies to be produced to neutralise the specific invader and store a memory of the attacking virus or bacterium so that the defensive forces can be more quickly mustered in the future.
Ken then gave us a history of how vaccination against smallpox was discovered and found to be effective. Patsy told us how the rabies virus is transmitted and how it can be combatted. Bill spoke about the development of polio vaccines and John gave us information about TB.
There was no time left for those of us who had researched diphtheria, chicken pox, whooping cough and measles to have their say, so we shall have to resume our discussion of this topic, which everybody found most interesting, on another occasion. Next month however, we shall be considering all the many different kinds of plastic, their manufacture, their properties and their uses.