Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

Tag: Infectious Diseases

  • Filariasis and elephantiasis, plagues of the tropics

    Imagine being bitten by a mosquito, not in your hometown but in one of the countries you have always longed to visit. After a few days, you may not feel well. This is because you have been invaded by the tiny micro-larvae offspring of a worm that lives in another person. You may or may…

  • Mumps: Dolor et tumor

    Mumps usually occurs in outbreaks, most often between the ages of 5–9, usually in the winter and spring in temperate climates but at any time in the tropics. After infecting the upper respiratory tract, this contagious virus spreads to the salivary glands, the lymph nodes, the blood, and throughout the body. Symptoms at first are…

  • Pertussis—A new or ancient disease?

    Pertussis is a respiratory disease characterized by the whoop, the sound made by patients during coughing fits, and popularly known as whooping cough. It may be a more ancient disease than is usually assumed. Mentioned in an ancient Chinese medical classic from before the first century, it was described during the Sui Dynasty by the…

  • Ship fever: A malignant disease of a most dangerous kind?

    Richard de GrijsSydney, Australia During the Age of Sail, “road,” “workhouse,” “hospital,” “army,” “camp,” “emigrant,” “jail”/“gaol,” and “ship” were routine noun adjuncts pertaining to the deadly fevers frequently occurring in overcrowded spaces in cold weather. Although “fever” diagnoses were common, most such instances in ships’ surgeons’ journals related to typhus or typhoid fevers—until 1869, they…

  • Martinus Beijerinck: A co-discoverer of viruses

    Philip LiebsonChicago, Illinois, United States As early as 1676, Dutch textile worker Anthony Van Leeuwenhoek, working with an early microscope, was the first to identify bacteria. Because of the size of bacteria, easily seen by a microscope, it was inevitable that bacteria would be discovered by someone. Not so with viruses. Although the smallest bacteria…

  • Salvador Luria and the bacteriophage

    Philip LiebsonChicago, Illinois, United States In 1859, the French naturalist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck proposed that if an organism is changed by environmental stimuli, these changes would be passed on to offspring. This theory was eventually disproven. One important study disproving this concept led to the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for Salvador Luria, Max Delbrück,…

  • Propagating penicillin in Peoria: From discovery to mass production

    Julius BonelloMichael NeffZoe DemkoPeoria, Illinois, United States One of the greatest medical achievements of the twenty-first century was the creation of penicillin. The road to this great achievement began almost 300 years ago when Antonie van Leeuwenhoek (1632–1723), a draper by trade who had no science background, wished to assess the quality of his threads.…

  • Epidemics: The deadly foes of humanity

    There was a time when humans may have solely attributed their illnesses to powers that could turn rivers into blood, kill firstborns, unleash swarms of frogs, lice, flies, and locusts (Exodus 7-10), cause contagious skin diseases (Leviticus 13:2-33), or send hideous, dangerous serpents to kill evildoers (Numbers 21:5-9).1 But in the relatively brief time of…

  • Measles again

    JMS PearceHull, England “Measles is tearing through the UK, spooking health chiefs and parents alike.”– Daily Mail, 25 Jan 2024 Measles is notoriously infectious. Ninety percent of people exposed to an infected person will contract the disease. In many countries, because of misguided anti-vaccine activists, Measles Mumps Rubella (MMR) vaccination rates have fallen in recent…

  • The final illness of Thomas Wolfe

    Thomas Clayton Wolfe was one of the most important American novelists and short story writers of the early 20th century. When he died as a young man in 1938, he joined the long list of literati victims of the dreaded “captain of these men of death”—John Keats, Percy Shelley, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Robert Louis Stevenson,…