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.”

Get our weekly newsletter

The Surprising Legacy of the Boy in the Bubble

Producer: Kit R. Roane
Associate Producer: Victor Couto

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.

View full episodes at

TranscriptArchiveArchive Credits

More on the Story

There’s a possible cure for ‘bubble boy’ disease. It will cost $665,000STAT
The True Story and Lasting Legacy of 'The Bubble Boy'The Takeaway
Related Coverage
‘The Boy in the Bubble’ Moved a World He Couldn’t TouchThe New York Times
A New Mini-Documentary Tells the Full Story of How the ‘Bubble Boy’ Helped Advance MedicineNew York Magazine
The real impact the real “Bubble Boy,” David Vetter, had on medicineBoing Boing
3 Lessons Medicine Learned From the Life and Death of ‘Bubble Boy’Take Part
'A PLASTIC WORLD' The History Of The Boy In The BubbleDigg
The true story & lasting legacy of 'The Bubble Boy'Reddit
The Boy in the BubbleKottke