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It requires but the briefest survey of the literature of syphilis to realize the stupendous amount of work that has been done for half a century in searching for a microbic cause of the disease. It seems as if most of the individuals who have begun the search succeeded in finding a microbe, and under the force of enthusiasm, rather than of satisfactory proof, many have claimed the rôle of specific etiology for their organism.
The name of Donné is one of the first, if not the first, to be associated with the microbic etiology of syphilis, but this was more or less unintentional on his part, apparently, as his partisans state that he did not believe certain organisms he found in the discharges of syphilities were the cause of the disease. His work was published in 1837. No noteworthy contribution to the subject was made until 1869, when Hallin claimed that a micrcoccus which he found constantly in the blood of syphilitics caused the disease. This was a queer organism. It was found in the red blood cells, which became enlarged and vacuolated as a consequence of the invasion, and after a time they acquired ciliary elongations.
THE ETIOLOGY OF SYPHILIS.. JAMA. 1903;XLI(4):261-262. doi:10.1001/jama.1903.04480010047012