1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Malta Fever

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MALTA (or Mediterranean) FEVER, a disease long prevalent of Malta and formerly at Gibraltar, as well as other Mediterranean centres, characterized by prolonged high temperature, with anaemia, pain and swelling in the joints, and neuritis, lasting on an average four months but extending even to two or three years. Its pathology was long obscure, but owing to conclusive research on the part of Colonel (afterwards Sir) David Bruce, to which contributions were made by various officers of the R.A.M.C. and others, this problem had now been solved. A specific micro-organism, the Micrococcus melitensis, was discovered in 1887, and it was traced to the milk of the Maltese goats. A commission was sent out to Malta in 1904 to investigate the question, and after three years’ work its conclusions were embodied in a report by Colonel Bruce in 1907. It was shown that the disappearance of the disease from Gibraltar had synchronized with the non-importation of goats from Malta; and preventive measures adopted in Malta in 1906, by banishing goats’ milk from the military and naval dietary, put a stop to the occurrence of cases. In the treatment of Malta fever a vaccine has been used with considerable success.