Mumps virus discovery
The earliest reference to mumps is from the 5th century BC when Hippocrates, the Father of Medicine, described the symptoms in his first book on epidemics . However, the cause of the disease remained unknown till 1908, when Granata first suggested that a virus was responsible.
In 1935, Claud Johnson and Ernest Goodpasture finally proved that a virus causes the disease. They injected monkeys with an unknown virus found in the saliva of people with early symptoms of mumps. When the monkeys began to develop symptoms of the disease, they confirmed that a virus caused mumps .
Mumps vaccine discovery
While mumps affected many children, deaths and severe complications were rare. So, unlike influenza, smallpox, and polio, there was no strong public demand for a vaccine. However, mumps infections significantly reduced productivity and workforce effectiveness. During wartime, particularly World War I and World War II, the military struggled with having too many of its soldiers fighting the mumps virus. This was one of the reasons why there was continued interest in finding a vaccine for mumps [7, 17].
But, it was only in 1945 that Karl Habel of the U.S. Public Health Service first cultured the mumps virus from embryonated eggs of hens. The following year, Habel developed the first experimental mumps vaccine with a weakened virus and tested its effectiveness on 2,825 West Indian sugarcane plantation workers in Florida. At the time, crowded living quarters made mumps infections spread faster, taking them away from work until recovery. Although some vaccinated workers did catch the disease, symptoms were mild. Overall, the vaccine was deemed effective [7, 17].
In 1956, the former Soviet Union was the first to develop a live mumps vaccine . However, the quest for an effective vaccine continued in the United States. A breakthrough occurred in 1963. A six-year-old girl named Jeryl Lyn began to experience a sore throat and swollen glands. Her father, Maurice Hilleman, happened to be the head of Virus and Cell Biology at Merck, an upcoming pharmaceutical company at the time. Hilleman used his daughter’s saliva swab to isolate the mumps virus and develop an attenuated mumps vaccine that he named Mumpsvax. In 1967, the US FDA authorized and licensed Mumpsvax for general use [7, 17].
The MMR vaccine (Measles-Mumps-Rubella)
In 1971, Merck released the MMR, a combined vaccine against measles, mumps, and rubella. [2,7]. In the same year, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), a committee within the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), recommended a single dose of the MMR vaccine for general use. In 1989, the committee suggested that all children be given two shots of the vaccine for better effectiveness [7,17].
The MMRV vaccine (Measles-Mumps-Rubella-Varicella)
In 2005, Merck added the varicella vaccine to the MMR. It became known as the measles, mumps, rubella, and varicella (MMRV) vaccine . By 2015, over 60% of member states of the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended at least one dose of the mumps-containing vaccine .