Five of the six children of an Akron family had their tonsils out one day last summer and within 48 hours all five came down with infantile paralysis. Three of them died. The sixth child did not contract paralysis. There had been no epidemic of the disease in Akron and none followed. A group of researchers from the University of Michigan, Western Reserve University and Akron's Children's Hospital investigated this puzzling case, published their findings last fortnight in the A.M.A. Journal.
The investigators discovered that the infantile paralysis (poliomyelitis) virus was present in the feces of the sixth child. They also found the virus in two groups of cousins with whom the children had come in contact, and in one family of neighborhood playmatesten children in all. Yet none of these children, though harboring the polio virus, got the disease.
The researchers conclude that in the case of the five paralyzed children the tonsil operation was "the precipitating factor," warn doctors and parents that tonsil operations are dangerous during the poliomyelitis season (summer and fall), even though the disease "is not notably prevalent in a community." Probable connection between tonsillectomies and poliomyelitis: nerves injured by surgery are more susceptible to polio infection, so that the latent virus could travel readily from the injured throat nerves to the medulla oblongata, where the spinal cord enters the brain.