Lviv clinical bulletin 2022, 1(37)-2(38): 81-84

Rudolf Weigl’s Vaccine in the Fight Against Typhus

B. Kuzminov, V. Smolnytska

Danylo Halytsky Lviv National Medical University

Introduction. Vaccination has made a breakthrough in history by overcoming the infectious diseases that have plagued humanity for millennia. The twentieth century was marked by the invention of vaccines against epidemics typhus, which have become the only salvation in overcoming this disease. The history of the vaccine was developed on the example of the first effective vaccine against epidemic typhus, developed by a prominent Polish scientist, professor at the University of Lviv Rudolf Weigl, the history of vaccine development and the method of culturing R. Prowazekii in the intestine of Pediculus humanus corporis was studied. From Rickettsia Рrowazekii – the causative agent of epidemic typhus transmitted by aphids (Pediculus humanus corporis) in the history of mankind killed more people than in all known wars. Brazilian researcher Enrique da Rocha Lima differentiated described in detail and gave a specific name to the causative agent of typhus in 1916. In 1920, GW Epstein, as well as S. Burt Weilbach, John L. Todd and FW Palfrey in 1922 confirmed the etiological significance of R. Prowazekii in the presence of typhus. Biological and morphological characteristics, the life cycle of the pathogen and the impossibility of reproduction on artificial nutrient media were established.

The aim of the study. According to the study of scientific sources to investigate the history of the technology of R. Weigl vaccine against epidemic typhus from its first series obtained in the laboratory and from 1930, when its production began, the period covering the 20-30s of the twentieth century. To establish that the scientific achievements of the scientists are not only the history of microbiology and virology, it is relevant today.

Materials and methods. Content analysis, a method of systematic analysis of research on the typhus vaccine, was used. The implementation of scientific research began with a retrospective analysis of the scientific works of R. Weigl and his students. Selection of sources was carried out in the archives and scientific libraries of Lviv and the Research Institute of Epidemiology and Hygiene of Danylo Halytsky Lviv National Medical University, in scientometric databases PubMed, Medline, Web of Science, Google Scholar by keywords: lice, typhus, rubella, R. Prowazekii.

174 scientific works in English, Ukrainian, Polish, French and Russian were analyzed and sources were selected in which the issue of creating a vaccine against typhus, technology of its production, efficiency of application was covered.

Results. The vaccine, developed by Professor Rudolf Weigl, author of the method of cultivating and accumulating the causative agent of this disease – R. Prowazekii in the intestine of the laboratory population of lice, despite the complexity of its preparation, for over 20 years was the only immunobiological drug to control typhus.

Conclusions. We should be grateful to Rudolf Weigl and his students, who have often studied R. Рrowazekii at the cost of their lives and developed a vaccine against typhus, which has killed millions of people on our planet.

Vaccination with a full dose of R. Weigl’s vaccine does not guarantee protection against infection, but reduces morbidity, completely eliminates mortality and facilitates the course of epidemic typhus.


  1. Kuzminov BP, Smolnytska VL. The story of one anniversary. To the 100th anniversary of the establishment of Rudolf Weigl’s laboratory for typhus. News of Medicine and Pharmacy. 2021;6(758):16-17 (Ukrainian)
  2. Kutya SA, SataevaTP. Historyofthestudyoftyphus (Literature review). Ukrainian Morphological Almanac. 2014;12(3):97-100 (Russian)
  3. Alphabetical list of 507 persons employed in prof. Rudolf Stefan Weigl Institute (1939–1944) and professions of some of them after WWII (according to the document. Professor Rudolf Stefan Weigl and his Institute for Epidemic Typhus in Lwów in the years 1939–1944. Published by Muzeum Arsenał. Wrocław [Internet]; Available from: (Data modyfikacji strony: 2021-02-22).
  4. Gray M. Rickettsia, typhus and the mitochondrial connection. [Internet]. 1998;396(6707):109-110. Available from: 
  5. Kryński S. Kartki ze wspomnień starego profesora: Kartka dwudziesta ósma (O prof. Rudolfie Weiglu i tyfusie plamistym). Gazeta AMG Gdańsk. 1997 (Kryński S. Cards from the memories of the old professor: Twenty-eighth card (About prof. Rudolf Weigl and typhus) AMG Gdańsk newspaper. 1997) (Polskie) Available from:
  6. Kryński S, Becla E, Machel M. Weigl’s method of intrarectal inoculation of lice in production of typhus vaccine and experimental works with Rickettsia provazeki. Annales Academiae Medicae Gedanensis. [Internet]. 1974;(4):19- Available from: Weigl/krynski/teoria.html.
  7. Mosing H. Rudolf Weigl uczony i człowiek na 50-lecie jego badań nad tyfusem plamistym. Zwyciężyć tyfus – Instytut Rudolfa Weigla we Lwowie. Dokumenty i wspomnienia. Wrocław: SUDETY; 2001 (Mosing H. Rudolf Weigl, a scientist and man on the 50th anniversary of his research on typhus. Winning typhus – the Rudolf Weigl Institute in Lviv. Documents and memories. Wroclaw: SUDETY; 2001) (Polskie). Available from:
  8. Weigl R. Badania nad Rickettsią Prowazekii. Przegląd Epidemjologiczny. 1920;I(1):4-17 (Weigl R. Research on Rickettsia Prowazekii. Epidemiological Review. 1920;I(1):4-17) (Polskie).
  9. Weigl R. O zarazku “Rickettsia Prowazekii” i znaczeniu jego przy durze osutkowym (Obezyt wygłoszony dn. 9.iv.1920 na posiedz. nauk. w Szpitalu Ujazdowakim). Lekarz Wojskowy. Warszawa, 1920;I(17):1-16 (Weigl R. About the germ of “Rickettsia Prowazekii” and its importance in the case of the aspirin (Lecture delivered on April 9, 1920 at a scientific meeting at the Ujazdowski Hospital). Military Doctor. Warsaw; 1920;I(17):1-16) (Polskie).
  10. Weigl R. Untersuchungen und Experimente an Fleckfieberläusen. Die Technik der Rikettsia-Forschung. Beiträge zur Klinik der Infektionskrankheiten und zur Immunitätsforschung. Leipzig; 1920;8:353-376 (Weigl R. Studies and experiments on typhus lice. The Technique of Rikettsia Research. Contributions to the clinic of infectious diseases and to immunological research. Leipzig; 1920;8:353-376) (Deutsch).
  11. Zinsser H. Epidemiology and immunity in the rickettsial diseases. Virus and Rickettsial Diseases. Harvard School of Public Health. Cambridge: Harvard University Press; 1940:872-907.