Bernice Eddy

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Bernice Eddy
Bernice Eddy NIH.png
Bernice Eddy as a staff member of the Laboratory of Biologics Control, 1938
Born Bernice E. Eddy
(1903-09-30)September 30, 1903
New York, New York
Died January 1, 1989(1989-01-01)
Nationality American
Fields Medical research,
virology and epidemiology
Institutions United States Public Health Service, National Institutes of Health

Bernice Eddy (1903–1999) was an American virologist and epidemiologist. She and Sarah Elizabeth Stewart are known for their discoveries related to cancer-causing viruses, particularly polyomavirus,[1] such as SV40, a cancer-causing monkey virus that millions of people were exposed to through contaminated polio vaccines.[2]

Polyoma virus[edit]

Building on earlier work by Ludwig Gross, Sarah Elizabeth Stewart and Bernice E. Eddy were the first to describe the polyoma virus.[3] Working together, they satisfied Koch's postulates to demonstrate polyomavirus can cause cancer to be transmitted from animal to animal. The virus was later named the SE polyoma virus in their honor.[1]

Cutter incident[edit]

In 1954, while the NIH was testing the first commercial polio vaccines, Eddy's job was to test the vaccines from five different companies.[4] Testing the vaccines on 18 monkeys, she and her team discovered that the inactivated vaccine manufactured by Cutter Laboratories contained residual live poliovirus, resulting in the monkeys showing polio-like symptoms and paralysis. Eddy reported her findings to William Workman, head of the Laboratory of Biologics Control, but her findings were never given to the vaccine licensing advisory committee.[5] Although then-NIH director William Sebrell was notified, he chose to ignore Eddy's findings and proceeded to license the Cutter vaccine along with the others. Dr. James Shannon, the associate director of the NIH, managed to get the vaccines recalled.

SV40 virus[edit]

In 1961, Eddy showed that an extract of monkey kidney cells used to propagate polio vaccine would cause tumors in newborn hamsters.[6] She followed up in 1962 to identify the SV40 as the virus present in these cells and in the Salk polio vaccine that caused the tumors.[2] Previously, in 1960, Ben Sweet and Maurice Hilleman published similar results,[7] leading Merck to voluntarily withdraw its killed-virus polio vaccine.[8]

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.[9]


  1. ^ a b Fulghieri, Carl, and Sharon Bloom. "Sarah Elizabeth Stewart." Emerging Infectious Diseases 20.5 (2014): 893+. Expanded Academic ASAP. Web. 1 Sept. 2014.
  2. ^ a b Eddy BE, Borman GS, Grubbs GE, Young RD (May 1962). "Identification of the oncogenic substance in rhesus monkey kidney cell culture as simian virus 40". Virology. 17 (1): 65–75. doi:10.1016/0042-6822(62)90082-x. PMID 13889129. 
  3. ^ Eddy BE, Stewart SE (November 1959). "Characteristics of the SE Polyoma Virus". Am J Public Health Nations Health. 49 (11): 1486–1492. doi:10.2105/ajph.49.11.1486. 
  4. ^
  5. ^ Offit, Paul A. The Cutter Incident: How America’s First Polio Vaccine Led to the Growing Vaccine Crisis. Yale University Press, 2007. pp. 62-63.
  6. ^ Eddy BE, Borman GS, Berkely WH, Young RD (May 1961). "Tumors induced in hamsters by injection of rhesus monkey cell extracts". Proc. Soc. Exp. Biol. Med. 107 (1): 191–197. doi:10.3181/00379727-107-26576. PMID 13725644. 
  7. ^ Sweet BH, Hilleman MR (November 1960). "The vacuolating virus, S.V. 40". Proc. Soc. Exp. Biol. Med. 105 (2): 420–427. doi:10.3181/00379727-105-26128. PMID 13774265. 
  8. ^ Levine, A.J. The Origins of Small DNA Tumor Viruses In: Foundations in Cancer Research, Academic Press, 1994 pp. 152-153.
  9. ^ Institute of Medicine (US) Immunization Safety Review Committee; Stratton K, Almario DA, McCormick MC, editors. Immunization Safety Review: SV40 Contamination of Polio Vaccine and Cancer. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2002.