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Laveran's germ: the reception and use of a medical discovery.
The research efforts to identify the etiological agent of malarial fevers during the decade 1880-1890 are traced and the various factors which facilitated and retarded research are examined. Alphonse Laveran's original announcement of his observation of the malaria parasite was regarded with great skepticism. This was a result of a rival claim of a bacterial cause of malarial fevers, advanced by Edwin Klebs and Corrado Tommasi-Crudeli, and because of the failure of Laveran's germ to explain the clinical diversity and pathophysiology of malaria. Changes in research technology, particularly the effective use of aniline dye stains, made possible greater precision in the study of the blood of malaria patients and in the subsequent understanding of the asexual phase of the plasmodium life cycle by Ettore Marchiafava and Angelo Celli. Until 1886, however, the study of the plasmodium was confined to a small group of researchers whose work was regarded with considerable reserve by the medical profession. Early in 1886, when Camillo Golgi coordinated the life cycle of the organism with the clinical course of the different types of malarial fever, clinicians became interested in the work. By 1890 Laveran's germ was generally accepted but most of Laveran's initial ideas had been discarded in favor of the taxonomic work and clinical pathology of the Italian school.
History, 19th Century
Staining and Labeling
Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.