The Surprising Legacy of the Boy in the Bubble

Newborns today are tested for genetic and immune disorders that might not be apparent at birth. The tests evolved from the treatment of a patient with a rare diagnosis who became known as “the Boy in the Bubble.”

The press said that David Vetter was born into a world he could not touch. And there was no truer statement in 1971 when, as an infant, he was placed inside the protective plastic bubble that had been specially built to seal it off. The outside world was toxic to the child, who suffered from a rare genetic defect so nefarious that it could turn even the slightest cold into a death sentence. But, despite this separation, the little boy’s fishbowl life turned him into a symbol of hope and determination for the generation of Americans who watched his story evolve.

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  • Producer: Kit R. Roane
  • Associate Producer: Victor Couto