Sarah Elizabeth Stewart

American Mircobiologist

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Sarah Stewart was born on August 16, 1905, in Jalisco, Mexico, to an American engineer and Mexican mother. In 1927, she graduated from New Mexico State University and in 1930, she earned an MS in Microbiology at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She worked at the National Institutes of Health during 1935-1944, publishing 7 papers on anaerobic bacteria and completing a PhD from the University of Chicago in 1939. She died of stomach cancer in 1976.

What Sarah Stewart Studied

In 1956, Stewart assisted by Bernice Eddy for the growing the agent causing parotid tumors in mice, Eddy readily agreed and the 2 women rapidly worked out the characteristics of the agent that was not referred to as a virus in their publications until 1959. Together they showed that the virus produced 20 types of mouse tumors and could cause tumors in other small mammals. At Eddy’s suggestion, the virus was dubbed polyoma, which means many tumors, and they named it the SE (Stewart–Eddy) polyomavirus. They also demonstrated that the virus causes cell necrosis and proliferation in cell culture, that it is highly antigenic, and that it leads to formation of specific antibodies in infected animals whether or not tumors develop.The polyoma virus is non-infectious to humans. Discovering the virus has served over the decades as a valuable tool for researchers focused on understanding the causes of cancer and developing ways to prevent it.

Information on the Polyoma

Polyomaviridae is a family of viruses. Mammals and birds serve as its natural host. They are potentially oncogenic (tumor-causing); they often persist as latent infections in a host without causing a disease. yet, they may produce tumors in a host of a different species, or a host with an ineffective immune system. The name Polyoma refers to the virus's ability to produce multiple (poly-) tumors (-oma).


Fulghieri, Carl, and Sharon Bloom. "Sarah Elizabeth Stewart." Emerging Infectious Diseases 20.5 (2014): 893+. Science in Context. Web. 7 Jan. 2016

Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 07 Jan. 2016.

"Sarah Elizabeth Stewart." Sarah Elizabeth Stewart. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Jan. 2016.