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Year : 2022  |  Volume : 65  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 966-969
Dr. P. V. Gharpure – An eminent Indian pathologist and a pioneer in starting oral polio vaccination in India

1 Department of Pathology, Gujarat Adani Institute of Medical Sciences, Bhuj, Kachchh, Gujarat; Formerly Professor of Pathology, Grant Government Medical College and Sir J. J. Hospital, Byculla, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
2 Formerly Professor of Pathology, Grant Government Medical College and Sir J. J. Hospital, Byculla, Mumbai; Central Pathology Consultancy, Pune, Maharashtra, India
3 Department of Pathology and laboratory Medicine, Temple University, Lewis Katz School of Medicine, Philadelphia, USA

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Date of Submission07-Apr-2022
Date of Decision12-May-2022
Date of Acceptance18-May-2022
Date of Web Publication21-Oct-2022


Dr. Purushottam Vishwanath Gharpure was an eminent Indian pathologist and an emeritus Professor of Pathology at the Grant Medical College, Bombay. He was a pioneer in carrying out the first field trial of polio vaccination which marked the beginning of the polio eradication program in India. Dr. Gharpure set an example by taking his laboratory work to the field and proving how the laboratory research can be used to better the society. The mesmerizing story of Dr. “Gharpure's life” is described in this paper.

Keywords: Bombay, Gharpure PV, Grant Medical College, India, oral polio vaccination, poliomyelitis

How to cite this article:
Lanjewar DN, Wagholikar UL, Jhala NC. Dr. P. V. Gharpure – An eminent Indian pathologist and a pioneer in starting oral polio vaccination in India. Indian J Pathol Microbiol 2022;65:966-9

How to cite this URL:
Lanjewar DN, Wagholikar UL, Jhala NC. Dr. P. V. Gharpure – An eminent Indian pathologist and a pioneer in starting oral polio vaccination in India. Indian J Pathol Microbiol [serial online] 2022 [cited 2022 Dec 7];65:966-9. Available from:

   Birthplace, Education, and Assignments Top

Dr. Purushottam Vishwanath Gharpure (PVG) [Figure 1] was born in a middle-class family on November 03, 1896, in Garade village, Pune district, Maharashtra, India. His primary and secondary education took place in Garade, and after matriculation, he joined college and, in 1916, got admission to the Grant Medical College (GMC), Bombay, now Grant Government Medical College (GGMC), Mumbai. He completed MBBS in 1921 and MD in Medicine in 1923, and acquired Diploma in Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (London) in 1923. His career began as a physician, however, in 1925, he joined pathology school as a voluntary worker without a salary; subsequently, he was appointed as an assistant professor in pathology. Before 1920 British doctors from Indian Medical Services headed clinical and paraclinical departments. Dr. V. R. Khanolkar was the first Indian who became a Professor of Pathology at GMC, in 1924; however, he resigned GMC and joined Seth G. S. Medical College Bombay in 1926. After his resignation, PVG became an acting professor. Subsequently, Government appointed Dr. Raghavendra Row as Head of the pathology (1926 to 1931), and after his retirement, PVG headed the department from 1932 to 1939. PVG was posted on second world war services from September 1, 1939, where he joined the Baloch Regiment, Infantry of the British Indian Army. When the Second World War ended, PVG returned on September 2, 1945, and re-joined as Head of pathology from 1945 to 1951.
Figure 1: Dr. P. V. Gharpure, MD, DTM &H (London). (03-11-1896 to 28-05-1967)

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   Poliomyelitis Epidemics in Post-Independent India Top

The first epidemic of Polio was documented on November 12, 1947, in Andaman and Nicobar Island, in which 1043 cases and 325 deaths were recorded.[1] This epidemic was investigated by Dr. C. G. Pandit (Founder Director of Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) New Delhi). However, the strains of viruses were lost before confirmation of viral entity. The year 1949 was significant; PVG was 56-years-old and was near the end of his career as a professor but was far from the end of his career as a researcher. A more glorious innings was to commence in his career. In 1949, Bombay (now Mumbai) was in the grip of poliomyelitis, 300 cases of paralytic Polio were mapped out in Bombay city and suburbs. Pediatricians urged Government to undertake investigations. Dr. M. D. Gilder, the then Health Minister, approached pathology laboratories of the city; PVG was the only taker, and he accepted the challenge.

   Polio Research Unit of ICMR in Pathology School, GMC, Bombay Top

In September 1949, the virus research committee of ICMR decided to establish a Polio Research Unit (PRU) at the Pathology School of GMC, and PVG was designated as Officer In-charge. With skeletal staff and minimum equipment, PVG initiated the work in two rooms of the Pathology School [Figure 2]a. The first aim of PRU was to identify the disease and the second aim was to know whether the virus causing the epidemic was imported or endemic. In the beginning, the staff of PRU surveyed affected areas in Bombay city and suburbs, collected demographic data, and noted a pattern of paralysis and mortality rate. Fecal specimens of children suffering from poliomyelitis were collected, and an experimental study on monkeys was planned.[2] In the experiental study, monkeys were anesthetized, mucosa of roof of their nose was traumatized, and emulsion of 10 ml. of fecal specimen obtained from infected children was dripped as inoculum into nostrils of monkeys for seven days. Every day monkey's rectal temperature was noted, their cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) was examined, they were also examined for the development of paralysis, and when they showed paralysis, they were sacrificed and autopsies performed. Half portions of their brains and spinal cords were preserved in 50% neutral glycerin, and the remaining halves were preserved in 10% neutral formalin. Emulsion of brains and spinal cords preserved in glycerin were injected into other healthy monkeys' brains; they also developed paralysis. These experiments established that infecting agents in feces and infected monkeys' brains were polioviruses. Histological studies of brain showed features of poliomyelitis which comprised neuronal damage, infiltration of plasma cells and neutrophils. The presence of polioviruses and their strains were preserved and subsequently typed.[2] The first batch showed existence of Type I and Type II polioviruses in Bombay, this is how PVG defined the disease in early 1950. Having achieved this, the second aim was to know whether the virus had been imported or endemic. Sixty-four random sera collected in Mumbai in 1952 from different age groups were sent to Dr. David Bodian, Head Poliomyelitis Laboratory, John Hopkins University, Baltimore, USA, to determine antibody content. Dr. Bodian's laboratory confirmed that over 90% of adults had neutralizing antibodies against all the three types of Polio viruses.[2] These results indicated that the polio epidemic in Bombay was due to an endemic virus. In 1955, PRU was successful in culturing poliovirus in monkey kidney tissue culture.[2] This led to PRU's ability to isolate viruses from feces, and their typing became easier, several strains of Type I, II and III polio viruses were identified. The research of PVG was appreciated by national and international scientists and World Health Organization (WHO). Due to this, PVG was invited to Geneva in 1957 for attending a meeting on Polio, where he met Dr. Albert Sabin, the developer of the Oral Polio Vaccine.[3]
Figure 2: (a) Pathology School Grant Medical College, Bombay (b) From Left to Right: Dr. Gharpure PV, Dr. Dave KV, Dr. Albert Sabin, Dr. Jhala HI and Dr. Kulkarni on the lawn of Haffkine Institute, Bombay

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   First Field Trial of Polio Vaccination Top

Since the beginning of 1949, about 4000 cases of Polio were occurring in every state of India.[4] The year 1961 is another landmark in the history of poliomyelitis. On March 13, 1961, the Director of Public Health Andhra Pradesh informed Dr. C. G. Pandit, the then Director of ICMR, about the development of paralysis in children in villages of Krishna and Godavari districts. ICMR directed PVG to investigate the epidemic. PRU started their work and found Type I polioviruses in fecal specimens of 44 children. Sera of 106 children showed antibodies to Type I poliovirus and established that the epidemic was due to Poliovirus type I. PVG informed Dr. Sabin about his plan for a field trial of polio vaccination, and Dr. Sabin guided the entire operation. The vaccine had come as a gift from the institute of poliomyelitis and virus encephalitis, Moscow, USSR. It donated 100,000 doses in dragees, and Connaught Research Laboratories, Toronto, Canada, donated 50,000 doses of OPV in liquid form. Before starting actual vaccination, awareness program and training of the health care workers was carried out, centers for immunization were identified, training of how to administer oral polio vaccine was given, press conferences were held and a film on Polio was produced for public awareness. In May 1961, the first dose of polio vaccine was given to 59,501 children below five years of age, and the second dose was given to 36,379 children in June-July 1961. PVG and his team were monitoring the effect of vaccination; in1962, the team found sharp drop in polio cases. Thus, the epidemic of Polio in Andhra Pradesh was controlled by field trial of vaccination. The detailed description of the first field trial was published in 1962.[5] In subsequent years, small to large poliomyelitis epidemics were documented in Udaipur (Rajasthan), wherein a field trail of oral polio vaccination was carried out.[6] Thus, a total of 140,300 children were vaccinated by PVG in the mass immunization campaigns.

   Invitation by who and United Nations Top

Dr. Gharpure's work was widely and universally acclaimed, he established himself as an international authority on Polio. PVG was an invitee at international conferences on poliomyelitis and was a spokesperson of Indian Research. The importance of his work, was recognized and in March 1962, WHO and United Nations group sponsored a tour of PVG and Dr. H. I. Jhala, (the then Director of the Haffkine Institute, Bombay), to study polio vaccination campaigns in Russia, Czechoslovakia, Poland, the United Kingdom, Canada and United States. In addition, Dr. Sabin, arranged their visit to Tucson, Arizona, on March 20, 1962, to witness the operations of the Oral polio vaccine campaign.[7] During this campaign, PVG and Dr. Jhala invited Dr. Sabin to visit Haffkine Institute, Bombay.

   DR. Sabin'S Visit to Bombay Top

Dr. Sabin visited Haffkine Institute, Bombay, on January 16, 1963 [Figure 2]b. On January 17, 1963, Dr. Sabin had a meeting with the Health Minister of the Maharashtra state, and after the meeting, Dr. Sabin announced to the press of starting the production of his vaccine at the Haffkine institute, Bombay. Maharashtra Government has been quick to sanction funds for the production of vaccines. PVG was engaged in implementing the recommendation made by Dr. Sabin on the building plans.[3] Unfortunately, the Central Government did not give a green signal for the production of Sabin's vaccine in the Haffkine Institute, Bombay.

   DR. Gharpure as Researcher Top

PVG guided and inspired PG students, doctors, scientists and technicians and carried everyone from glory to glory. The key to success was, PVG's contacts and his knack to muster cooperation from other stalwarts in Bombay and other cities, international experts, and health authorities. Data from poliovirus research have been supplied to WHO. About 20 strains of polio virus were issued to the United States of America.[8] Dr. Gharpure's scientific articles are notable primarily for their originality and specifically on poliomyelitis. He also analyzed the autopsy data and published his first article in 1927 on the incidence of primary carcinoma in India as inferred from postmortem records of fifty years from 1877 to 1926.[9] PVG also described autopsy-derived information on amoebiasis in Bombay.[10] In a historical review of hundred years of pathology, he described milestones of pathology school since its establishment in 1845.[11]

   DR. Gharpure as Professor Top

Prof. Gharpure was a punctual man, would be in the department at 8.00 am sharp and would leave the department after 5.00 pm. His dress code was spotless clean white shirt and trouser with tie and a full-sleeved apron. His devotion to the subject and work culture were exemplary. He had passion for autopsy and he loved mounting specimens and created an excellent pathology museum in the GMC. In his whole career, he guided many students who became successful academician or practicing pathologists in India and abroad. Watching his daily work and working under his guidance was more educative. He molded his students by his examples and by his words. His attitude towards staff was humanitarian, at the same time he was a strict disciplinarian. Appa Saheb was a fond unanimous designation for him. He was a founder member of “Teaching Pathologists Association” Bombay, and the Indian Association of Pathologists and Microbiologists (IAPM), of which he was nominated as President in 1955. PVG was an active member of ICMR, New Delhi. He was declared “Emeritus Scientist” by the ICMR, and the Bombay university appointed him “Emeritus Professor of Pathology.” The monumental work of PVG was a milestone. Realizing this, ICMR upgraded the PRU into a permanent establishment, “The Entero-virus Research Laboratory” in 1981 at the Haffkine Institute. It is now functioning for about 73 years, and currently, it is the WHO's reference laboratory for sequencing poliovirus and other enteroviruses.

Dr. Gharpure's first wife expired very young. His second wife was with him till the end; they had one son. In the later part of his career, there was a tragedy in his family that shattered him, and he retired from active work. He passed away on May 28, 1967 at 71 years. Dr. P. V. Gharpure was indeed an inimitable pathologist, a rarity in this age of modern medicine.

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Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

   References Top

Moses SH. Report of the epidemic of anterior poliomyelitis in the Nicobar Island. Ind Med Gaz 1948;83:355-63.  Back to cited text no. 1
Gharpure PV. Poliomyelitis: Epidemiological and virus studies. Ind J Med Sci 1957;11:471-8.  Back to cited text no. 2
Letter from Dr. Gharpure PV to Dr Albert Sabin, April 24 1963; letter No. ICMR/Sabin/52.  Back to cited text no. 3
Gharpure PV. Poliomyelitis-A problem in India. J Post Grad Med 1963;9:141-60.  Back to cited text no. 4
Gharpure PV, Dave KH. Polio virus vaccine, live oral (Sabin), First field trial in India, Part I, administration of the vaccine. Ind J Med Sci 1962;16:1-27.  Back to cited text no. 5
Singh S, Meherhomji KH, Gharpure PV. Poliomyelitis in Udaipur-A small outbreak in 1963 and the use of Sabin vaccine. J Ind Med Ass 1964;43:153-9.  Back to cited text no. 6
Tucson daily citizen. India to fashion polio drive along Pima County lines. Tuesday evening, March 20, 1962.  Back to cited text no. 7
Dave KH, Kaur B, Gharpure PV. Polio virus vaccine, line oral (Sabin), First field trial in India, Administration of the vaccine. Part 2- Results of laboratory tests. Ind J Med Sci 1964;18:1-12.  Back to cited text no. 8
Gharpure PV. The incidence of primary carcinoma in India as inferred from postmortem records of fifty years from 1877 to 1926. Ind Med Gaz 1927;62:315-7.  Back to cited text no. 9
Gharpure PV, Saldanha JL. Some observations on human amoebiasis (being an analysis of postmortem findings in 426 cases). Ind Med Gaz 1931;66:132-5.  Back to cited text no. 10
Gharpure PV. Hundred years of pathology in the Grant Medical College Bombay. Antiseptics 1951;48:397-402.  Back to cited text no. 11

Correspondence Address:
Dhaneshwar Namdeorao Lanjewar
Department of Pathology, Gujarat Adani Institute of Medical Sciences, Bhuj, Kachchh, Gujarat
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/ijpm.ijpm_319_22

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