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Artificial vaccine from the Vi antigen

A major advance against deadly typhoid

Technical file

Innovation leader: Josep Antoni Grífols i Roig

Year: 1936

Period: Origins (1909-1939)

Type of innovation: Product

Scope: Biomedicine

Patent: No

Geographical reach: National

Economic impact:  3-Low

Level of innovation:  3-Adaptive

Interdisciplinary connections: -

Related innovations: -

Vaccines have been used since the beginning of the twentieth century to prevent disease. In fact, one of Josep Antoni Grífols i Roig's first activities at his Laboratorio de Análisis Clínicos was to develop autovaccines and preventative vaccines.

An autovaccine was a serum made from the blood from an infected patient, which was introduced back into the same person. The infectious agent was diluted or inactivated to reduce or eliminate its harmful effects. Once ingested or injected, it helped the patient to develop immunity against the causative agent of the disease.

Preventative vaccines, on the other hand, were administered to healthy subjects in order to stop them from being infected with the disease in the first place.

 

A deadly disease

And there was an urgent need for effective measures against contagious diseases in Barcelona in the first decades of the 1900s. Contamination of water, poor hygiene and inadequate garbage disposal meant that communicable diseases regularly took a dreadful toll on the population, with 2,500 deaths from typhoid in 1914 alone. Dr. Grífols i Roig was himself working to combat these regular outbreaks by developing his own preventative vaccine.

His initial efforts were based on the work of André Chantemesse and involved introducing typhoid's causative agent–the Eberth bacillus (or Salmonella typhi)–into healthy patients. Grífols i Roig made gradual improvements to the treatment by devising ways to administer ever-greater concentrations.

 

The key breakthrough

His work took a dramatic leap forward in 1935, thanks to the discovery of the Vi antigen present in the bacillus by Felix and Pitt the year before. Antigens are chemical markers which antibodies–part of the body's natural defense mechanism–lock onto to inactivate the disease-causing agent.

That same year, Perry, Findlay and Bensted showed that the more virulent the antigen used, the greater the immunizing capacity the vaccine created from it. The Vi antigen's very name was chosen due to its very high virulence, so Dr. Grífols i Roig realized that he could produce an innovative artificial vaccine from the Vi antigen which would be far more potent in the fight against typhoid.

Grífols i Roig registered his innovative vaccine on January 30, 1936, and produced it jointly with the General Society of Pharmacy, with which he had collaborated with since 1931.

 

 

Grífols i Roig realized that he could produce
an innovative artificial vaccine from the Vi antigen,
which would be far more potent in the fight against typhoid

Bibliography

  • Meister Lucius & Brüning (1911). Vacuna antitífica Meister Lucius. Folleto comercial de IG Farbwerke vorm. Meister Lucius & Brüning. Alemania.
  • Grífols Roig, J.A. (circa 1915). Vacuna curativa para la fiebre tifoidea. Folleto comercial de la Sección de Bacteriología del Instituto Central de Análisis del Dr. Grífols y Roig. Barcelona.
  • Grífols Roig, J.A. (circa 1917). Vacuna preventiva contra la fiebre tifoidea. Folleto comercial de la Sección de Bacteriología del Instituto Central de Análisis del Dr. Grífols y Roig. Barcelona.
  • Grífols Roig, J.A (1919). Tractament de les septicèmies estafilocòciques, d'origen no quirúrgic ni puerperal. Tercer Congrés de Metges de Llengua Catalana, 601-610.
  • Grífols Roig, J.A. (1933). La vacunoterapia por ingesta en las afecciones colibacilares. Folleto divulgativo del Departamento de Biología de la Sociedad General de Farmacia, S. A ., 1-7.
  • Felix, A. et. al. (1934). Observations on the properties of the Vi Antigen of B. Typhosus. British Journal of Experimental Pathology, 15(6), 346-354.
  • Grífols Roig, J.A. (1936). Vacuna antitifoidica preventiva. La primera preparada en España de acuerdo con los descubrimientos del Dr. Félix de Londres. Folleto divulgativo del Instituto de Análisis Clínicos y de Terapéutica Biológica del Doctor Grífols , 1-4.
  • Grífols Roig, J.A. (1936). Una reacción de aglutinación del B. Eberth por la tripaflavina, según el Dr. W. Hirsch, en estrecha relación con el antígeno Vi. Medicina Latina i comunicación de la Academia y Laboratorio de Ciencias Médicas de Cataluña, sesión del 29 Abril 1936, 287-294.
  • Felix, A. (1941). A New Type of Typhoid and Paratyphoid Vaccine. British Medical Journal, 1(4184), 391-395.
  • Estudios OM (1942). Quince años al servicio de la Medicina. Barcelona: Sociedad General de Farmacia.
  • Grífols-Lucas, V. (2009). Amb un suro i un cordill. Vivències d'un empresari de postguerra. Barcelona: Grífols Group, S.A.
  • Avellà, R., & Miquel, B. (Eds.). (2015). Cuando un sueño se cumple. Crónica ilustrada de 75 años de Grifols . Barcelona: Grupo Grifols S.A.