Richard G. Petty, MD

Multiple Sclerosis and Polio

There have been repeated claims that one of the causes of the rising tide of multiple sclerosis (MS) cases is somehow related to polio vaccinations. This idea has been championed by the brilliant Greek homeopath George Vithoulkas. His hypothesis is that the reduction in paralysis from polio appears to parallel a rise in the incidence of MS, and that it is polio vaccine that is to blame. There are many websites repeating the claim that polio vaccinations are the cause of many illnesses.

Is there actually any evidence for this?

I’ve look at several hundred papers in all the languages that I can read, and this is what I think so far.

It is certainly true that people who already have MS may become worse after some types of vaccination.

There have been very occasional reports of children developing an MS type of illness after vaccination, but probably only in children who were genetically predisposed.

There have been a number of studies on polio vaccination and MS. Most with only small numbers of individuals, but the only link seems to be that people with MS tended to have their vaccinations at an older age.

Many of the best epidemiological studies come from Scandinavia, where there are often superb medical records, and little mobility of the population. One study done in Denmark looked not at vaccination, but instead examined data on every person in Copenhagen diagnosed with polio between 1919 and 1954. They found that there was a slightly increased risk of eventually developing MS. This is very difficult research to do well, since the symptoms of the two conditions so often overlap.

There have only been a handful of well-executed independent studies and they have failed to find a link between vaccination and type 1 diabetes, MS or inflammatory bowel disease.
There do seem to be some unusual cases in which autoimmune phenomena have been clearly related to immunization, such as the neurological illness Guillain-Barre syndrome. But they are clearly uncommon. This also provides evidence against some ingredient in the vaccines being the problem.

Another approach has been to look at the poliovirus receptor gene, and again the findings failed to find a role of the gene in the development of MS.

As an aside, there does not seem to be a link between vaccination against hepatitis B and MS, though there have undoubtedly been occasional case in which the illness started after vaccination, and there remains a nagging concern about a possible association. The question always is the extent to which the vaccination could have caused the problem. The fact is that in complex biological systems there is hardly ever one cause for one effect.

On the evidence currently available the polio vaccine/MS hypothesis is not supported.

And I wonder how many readers remember kids with leg braces and iron lungs? Polio can be a nasty illness and I would hate to see it return to countries that have eradicated it.

About Richard G. Petty, MD
Dr. Richard G. Petty, MD is a world-renowned authority on the brain, and his revolutionary work on human energy systems has been acclaimed around the globe. He is also an accredited specialist in internal and metabolic medicine, endocrinology, psychiatry, acupuncture and homeopathy. He has been an innovator and leader of the human potential movement for over thirty years and is also an active researcher, teacher, writer, professional speaker and broadcaster. He is the author of five books, including the groundbreaking and best selling CD series Healing, Meaning and Purpose. He has taught in over 45 countries and 48 states in the last ten years, but spends as much time as possible on his horse farm in Georgia.


6 Responses to “Multiple Sclerosis and Polio”
  1. Rodney Overton says:

    I have a 33 year old son with very bad MS which commeced a few years ago. He is virtually crippled in a wheelchair. When his mother was pregnant with him she had exposure to someone with measles? Is there a connection?

  2. Richard Petty says:

    Dear Mr. Overton,

    Thank you for your note.

    I am so terribly sorry to hear about your son.

    The evidence for a link between pre-natal measles exposure and MS is very weak. Your question prompted me to re-examine the world literature and apart form a few old and methodologically flawed studies in the 1970s and 1980s, I could find nothing. So I think that we are left with the answer, “Possible, but very unlikely.”

    There is another rare neurological condition called subacute sclerosing panencephalitis that is associated with measles, but its clinical manifestations are usually completely different from those of MS.

    I do wish you and your son well.

    Kind regards,


  3. Roger says:

    Regarding your son with MS. How many mercury fillings does he have. As there is a link between mercury and MS.
    People with MS who have detoxed their body of Mercury have regained their health.

  4. Richard Petty says:

    Dear Roger,

    Thank you so much for your contribution.

    I remain conflicted about the mercury/MS association.

    The scientific evidence is weak, but I knew an excellent practitioner in Philadelphia who has had seen some amazing improvements in several neurological disorders after removing mercury-containing fillings.

    I am sure that it cannot be the only factor: I have seen MS in people in China and India who had not a single filling: even if they needed them!

    And the mercury hypothesis is difficult to square with the racial, geographical and genetic factors, since none of the genes seems to have much to do with mercury.

    I think that your very helpful comments really speak to the importance of two things:
    1. Very few illnesses are caused by only one factor
    2. If someone is dealing with a chronic problem for which conventional medicine has little to offer, explore all the possibilities.

    But be VERY careful: the world is full of well-meaning people who will promise you the moon and actually give you a handful of sand.

    And Roger, if you have come across people with confirmed MS who have responded to a mercury detox, have you published the data?

    Or are you going to?

    Kind regards



    Mr. Petty,
    My father had Polio as a child born in 1925.
    Me, I have M.S. since 1986. Gave birth to my daughter 1985. I am now 46 I am wondering if Polio and M.S. are related, or giving birth could have something to do with it, I was 24 when diagnosed.

  6. Richard Petty says:

    Dear Janet,

    Thank you so much for your letter.

    The evidence that we have so far would indicaet that your father’s polio and you MS are not connected. But I’m leaving an “out,” becuase the research data continues to accumulate.

    The second question about pregnancy is a very good one. There has been a lot of research on the relationship between pregnancy and MS, and most of it has shown that there is no effect. A couple of studies have found that in people who already had MS, it got worse in the three months after delivery.

    I do wish you well. I would not wishM S on anyone, and I am giong to continue reoprting about any new research that might help people with it.

    Kind regards,


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