Infectious Disease - Hektoen International

Palo Seco: A leper colony in Panama

Enrique Chaves-Carballo Overland Park, Kansas   Fig 1. Indian 50 paisa stamp shows Armauer Hansen at work in his laboratory. Via Wikimedia. Copyright Post of India, licensed under the Government Open Data License. The history of leprosy goes back to antiquity and is replete with unscientific prejudices, including the belief that the disease was highly […]

Koch’s postulates revisited

JMS Pearce Hull, England   Van Leeuwenhoek (1632–1722), a Dutch botanist, using his early microscope observed single-celled bacteria, which he reported to the Royal Society as animalcules. The science of bacteriology owes its origin to two scientists of coruscating originality, Louis Pasteur and Robert Koch. Pasteur may be described as master-architect and Koch as master-builder […]

John Walker, vaccinator extraordinaire

JMS Pearce Hull, England   Medicine has bred many odd but audacious characters, eccentrics, polymaths and “truants.” One might argue that those characteristics attracted such people to careers in medicine: a chicken and egg dilemma. Conversely, some have argued that modern regulated uniformity has infected medicine and stultified originality. A little-known medical eccentric and heretic […]

Leprosy and armadillos: Handle with care

Howard Fischer Uppsala, Sweden   A nine-banded armadillo in the Green Swamp, central Florida. Photo by Tomfriedel (BirdPhotos.com), June 27, 2008, on Wikimedia. CC BY 3.0. Leprosy (Hansen’s disease) is a chronic, disfiguring, and handicapping infectious disease. It was known in the ancient world, and evidence of the disease has been found from 2000 B.C.1 […]

Rapid testing for the masses

Anthony Papagiannis Thessaloniki, Greece   A summer camp of flowers. Photo by author. Ten young girls are queueing outside the makeshift surgery. They are between eleven and fifteen, they wear face masks, they giggle and tease each other and try to encourage the timid ones before the coming ordeal. What is this going to be? […]

Gain of function

Jayant Radhakrishnan Darien, Illinois, United States   “It is no good to try to stop knowledge from going forward. Ignorance is never better than knowledge.” – Enrico Fermi (1901–1954)   SARS-CoV-2 virus anatomy with proteins labeled. Created by Maya Peters Kostman for the Innovative Genomics Institute. CC BY-NC-SA 4.0. “Gain of Function” (GoF) burst into […]

Diagnosis: Neurosyphilis. Treatment: Malaria, iatrogenic

Howard Fischer Uppsala, Sweden   Patient in Kettering hypertherm cabinet undergoing fever therapy. New Orleans, 1937. U.S. Marine Hospital. Works Progress Administration photo. New Orleans Public Library Digital Collections via Wikimedia. Public domain. “The syphilitic man was thinking hard…about how to get his legs to step off the curb and carry him across Washington Street. […]

Dr. Oriol Mitjà: seeking to understand old and new infectious diseases

Howard Fischer Uppsala, Sweden   “Research needs to give answers to real problems.” – Dr. Oriol Mitjà   Oriol Mitjà. Photo by Oriol.mitja, 2016, on Wikimedia. CC BY-SA 4.0. Dr. Oriol Mitjà (b. 1980) earned his M.D. degree from the University of Barcelona. He then completed an internal medicine residency, followed by a fellowship in […]

Dr. Gerhard Domagk and prontosil: Dyeing beats dying

Howard Fischer Uppsala, Sweden   “It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.” – Albert Einstein   Erysipelas infection in face due to streptococcal bacteria. Photo by CDC/Dr. Thomas F. Sellers, Emory University, 1963. CDC Public Health Image Library. Public domain. Dr. Gerhard Domagk (1895–1964) was a German pathologist […]

When Papa Doc treated yaws

Howard Fischer Uppsala, Sweden   A patient with yaws prior to and two weeks after a single injection of benzathine penicillin. 1950s. From Kingsley Asiedu, Christopher Fitzpatrick, and Jean Jannin, “Eradication of Yaws: Historical Efforts and Achieving WHO’s 2020 Target.” PLoS Negl Trop Dis 8(9), 2014: e3016, https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pntd.0003016. Via Wikimedia. CC BY 4.0. “Our Doc […]