Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 58.djvu/370

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
362
POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

malariæ in the blood of persons suffering from intermittent fever. Blood was drawn from the finger during the febrile attack and from individuals to whom quinine had not been administered. The demonstration was entirely satisfactory, and no doubt was left in my mind that I saw living parasitic micro-organisms in the interior of red blood corpuscles obtained from the circulation of malarial-fever patients. The motions were quite slow and were manifested by a gradual change of outline rather than by visible movement. After a period of amœboid activity of greater or less duration, the body again assumed an oval or spherical form and remained quiescent for a time. While in this form it was easily recognized, as the spherical shape caused the light passing through it to be refracted and gave the impression of a body having a dark contour and a central vacuole; but when it was flattened out and undergoing amœboid changes in form, it was necessary to focus very carefully and to have a good illumination in order to see it. The objective used was a Zeiss's one-twelfth inch homogeneous oil immersion.

But, very properly, skepticism with reference to the causal relation of these bodies to the disease with which they are associated was not removed by the demonstration that they are in fact blood-parasites, that they are present in considerable numbers during the febrile paroxysms and that they disappear during the interval between these paroxysms. These facts, however, give strong support to the inference that they are indeed the cause of the disease. This inference is further supported by the evident destruction of red blood corpuscles by the parasite, as shown by the presence of grains of black pigment in the amœba-like microorganisms observed in these corpuscles and the accumulation of this insoluble blood pigment in the liver and spleen of those who have suffered repeated attacks of intermittent fever. The enormous loss of red blood corpuscles as a result of such attacks is shown by the anæmic condition of the patient and also by actual enumeration. According to Kelsch, a patient of vigorous constitution in the first four days of a quotidian intermittent fever, or a remittent of first invasion, may suffer a loss of 2,000,000 of red blood corpuscles per cubic millimeter of blood, and in certain cases a loss of 1,000,000 has been verified at the end of twenty-four hours. In cases of intermittent fever having a duration of twenty to thirty days the number of red blood cells may be reduced from the normal, which is about 5,000,000 per cubic millimeter to 1,000,000 or even less. In view of this destruction of the red blood cells and the demonstrated fact that a certain number, at least, are destroyed during the febrile paroxysms by a blood parasite, which invades the cells and grows at the expense of the continued hæmoglobin, it may be thought that the etiological rôle of the parasite should be conceded. But scientific conservatism demands more than this, and the final proof has been afforded by the experiments of Gerhardt and of Marchiafava and Celli—