Bernice Eddy

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Bernice Eddy
Born Bernice E. Eddy
(1903-01-01)January 1, 1903
New York, New York
Died January 1, 1999(1999-01-01)
Nationality American
Fields Medical research,
virology and epidemiology
Institutions United States Public Health Service, National Institutes of Health
Known for first describing the polyomavirus, work on the polio vaccine

Bernice Eddy (1903–1999) was an American virologist and epidemiologist. She is known for being the first to successfully demonstrate that viruses causing cancer could be spread from animal to animal. She is also known for identifying SV40, a cancer-causing monkey virus that millions of people were exposed to through contaminated polio vaccines.

Polyoma virus[edit]

Dr. Sarah Stewart and Dr. Bernice E. Eddy were the first to describe the polyoma virus. The virus was later named the SE polyoma virus in their honor.

Cutter incident[edit]

In 1954, while the NIH was producing the newly formulated polio vaccines, Eddy's job was to test the vaccines from five different companies.[1] By testing the vaccines on 18 monkeys, she and her team discovered that the vaccines manufactured by Cutter's had live instead of inactivated viruses, resulting in the monkeys getting polio-like symptoms and paralysis. Although then-NIH director William Sebrell was notified, he chose to ignore Eddy's findings and proceeded to administer the Cutter vaccines along with the others. Dr. James Shannon, the associate director of the NIH, managed to get the vaccines recalled.

In 1998, the National Cancer Institute undertook a large study, using cancer case information from the Institute's SEER database. The published findings from the study revealed that there was no increased incidence of cancer in persons who may have received vaccine containing SV40. Another large study in Sweden examined cancer rates of 700,000 individuals who had received potentially contaminated polio vaccine as late as 1957; the study again revealed no increased cancer incidence between persons who received polio vaccines containing SV40 and those who did not. The question of whether SV40 causes cancer in humans remains controversial however, and the development of improved assays for detection of SV40 in human tissues will be needed to resolve the controversy.


  • Eddy BE, Borman GS, Berkely WH, Young RD. “Tumors induced in hamsters by injection of rhesus monkey cell extracts.” Proc Soc Exp Biol Med 107:191-197, May 1961.