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JAMA 100 Years Ago
December 12, 2001


Author Affiliations

JenniferReiling, Assistant Editor

JAMA. 2001;286(22):2785. doi:10.1001/jama.286.22.2785

The popularly accepted theory of the etiology of hay fever places the responsibility for this annoying disease upon vegetable pollen. The exact manner in which pollen causes hay fever does not seem to be cleared up. Recent investigations by Heymann and Matzuschita1 are calculated to throw some doubt upon the correctness of the pollen theory, because in a careful examination of the nasal contents of several hay fever sufferers, they failed to find much if any pollen present. They point out further that in certain experiments by Blackley and others only temporary irritative phenomena were induced by the introduction into the nose of much larger quantities of pollen than ever can take place under natural conditions, because the quantity of pollen in the air at the most suitable season and in the most suitable places is not very great. Heymann and Matzuschita made the observation that the number of streptococci in the nasal secretion of hay fever patients greatly exceeds that in the secretion of normal persons. Often streptococci were present in pure cultures in the case of hay fever sufferers. Now, the bacteria found upon pollen in nature did not at all support the plausible inference that pollen might serve as the carrier of the streptococci; for streptococci were never found on free pollen. While there are not enough data on hand to permit the assignment of an etiologic rôle to the streptococci found in the nasal cavities of hay fever patients, these observations certainly tend to compromise the pollen theory of hay fever and should stimulate to renewed investigations of this interesting malady.

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