Tag Archives: Infectious Diseases

The Schoolhouse Lab

Edward McSweegan Kingston, Rhode Island, United States   Howard T. Ricketts in Mexico City laboratory. National Library of Medicine “Black measles” was a common name for spotted fever, which regularly killed people in the western United States. Symptoms included a spotty rash on the extremities, fever, chills, headache, and photophobia. No one knew what caused […]

How a small town kept smallpox small

Annabelle Slingerland Leiden, the Netherlands   Fig. 1 Presentation of smallpox. To make a mountain out of a molehill is a vice, but to keep the mole underground is a virtue. The little town of Tilburg in the south of the Netherlands was not accustomed to seeing mountains, but when a molehill first came into […]

A plastic surgeon’s weeks in lockdown

Neha Chauhan Bangalore, Karnataka, India   As I tuned in to the announcement on March 24th, 2020 that India would be completely locked down for next three weeks to flatten the curve of coronavirus spread, my heart skipped a beat and then almost sank. I spent a sleepless night trying to understand my reaction of […]

How conflict and bureaucracy delayed the elimination of yellow fever

Edward McSweegan Kingston, Rhode Island, United States   Army Surgeon General George Miller Sternberg, Wikimedia The Golden Age of Bacteriology (1876-1906) saw the emergence of techniques to cultivate bacterial pathogens and develop vaccines and anti-toxin therapies against them. The new bacteriologists rapidly identified the agents causing anthrax, gonorrhea, typhoid, tuberculosis, cholera, tetanus, diphtheria, plague, and […]

Ebola on this side

Elisabeth Preston-Hsu Atlanta, Georgia, United States   “Ebola in the Dark.” Drawing by Elisabeth Preston-Hsu, 2019, private collection In September 2014, my husband Chris boarded a plane from Atlanta, Georgia for the Democratic Republic of Congo, his first trip to Africa for work. We had just moved back to Atlanta two months before when he […]

Quinine and the cinchona plant: gain or bane for Africa?

Lom Ning Bamenda, Republic of Cameroon   Slave Market. Frederic Remington. 1893. The Art Institute of Chicago. “The gin and tonic has saved more Englishmen’s lives and minds than all doctors in the Empire.”1 This statement by Winston Churchill referred to the bitter-tasting substance in tonic water, quinine. This antimalarial alkaloid did save lives, but […]

Philadelphia’s plague

Hayat El Boukari Tetouan, Morocco Four plates showing the development of yellow fever. From the title: Observations sur la fièvre jaune, faites à Cadix, en 1819 / par MM. Pariset et Mazet. Authors: Etienne Pariset (1770-1847) and André Mazet (1793-1821). Credit: Wellcome Collection. CC BY 4.0. A narrative of the proceedings of the black people, […]

The forgotten many of the Guatemalan Syphilis Experiments

Harsh Patolia Roanoke, Virginia, United States   Inoculation site of participant. Image from the Records of Dr. John C. Cutler housed in the National Archives. In 2005, medical historian Dr. Susan Reverby foraged through boxes in the stuffy archives of the library of the University of Pittsburgh for the papers of Thomas Parran, the surgeon […]

Preparing for a zombie apocalypse

Larry Kerr Carlisle, Pennsylvania, United States   Pieter Bruegel the Elder created this apocalyptic view of a world in 1562 unprepared to handle a pandemic. The painting has been in Museo del Prado in Madrid since 1827. What can we learn from a Zombie Apocalypse? The first thing to learn? It could happen. Anyone who […]

Clara Maass, yellow fever, and the early days of ethical medical testing

Mariel Tishma Chicago, Illinois, United States   Clara Louise Maass portrait. Credit: National Museum of Health and Medicine. CC BY 2.0. Clara Maass was born on June 28, 1876, in the quiet New Jersey township of East Orange. The oldest daughter of Hedwig and Robert E. Maass, she grew up helping to raise and provide […]