Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 58.djvu/369

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MALARIA.

361

of hydrogen and carbon—methane or 'marsh-gas.' In short, we now know that the air in the vicinity of marshes is not deleterious because of any special kind of bad air present in such localities, but because it contains mosquitoes infected with a parasite known to be the specific cause of the so-called malarial fevers. This parasite was discovered in the blood of patients suffering from intermittent fevers by Laveran, a surgeon in the French army, whose investigations were conducted in Algiers. This famous discovery was made toward the end of the year 1880, but it was several years later before the profession generally began to attach much importance to the alleged discovery. It was first confirmed by Richard in 1882; then by the Italian investigators, Marchiafava, Celli, Golgi and Bignami; by Councilman, Osier and Thayer in this country, and by many other competent observers in various parts of the world. The Italian investigators named not only confirmed the presence of the parasite discovered by Laveran in the blood of those suffering from malarial fevers, but they demonstrated its etiological rôle by inoculation experiments and added greatly to our knowledge of its life history (1883-1898). The fact that the life history of the parasite includes a period of existence in the body of the mosquito, as an intermediate host, has recently been demonstrated by the English army surgeons Manson and Ross, and confirmed by numerous observers, including the famous German bacteriologist, Koch.

The discoveries referred to, as is usual, have had to withstand the criticism of conservative physicians, who, having adopted the prevailing theories with reference to the etiology of periodic fevers, were naturally skeptical as to the reliability of the observations made by Laveran and those who claimed to have confirmed his discovery. The first contention was that the bodies described as present in the blood were not parasites, but deformed blood corpuscles. This objection was soon set at rest by the demonstration, repeatedly made, that the intra-corpuscular forms underwent distinct amœboid movements. No one witnessing these movements could doubt that he was observing a living microorganism. The same was true of the extra-corpuscular flagellate bodies, which may be seen to undergo very active movements, as a result of which the red blood corpuscles are violently displaced and the flagellate body itself dashes about in the field of view.

The first confirmation in this country of Laveran's discovery of amœboid parasites in the blood of malarial-fever patients was made by myself in the pathological laboratory of the Johns Hopkins University in March, 1886. In May, 1885, 1 had visited Eome as a delegate to the International Sanitary Conference, convened in that city under the auspices of the Italian Government, and while there I visited the Santo Spirito Hospital for the purpose of witnessing a demonstration, by Drs. Marchiafava and Celli, of that city, of the presence of the plasmodium