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October 17, 1980

Obituaries for Deceased Diseases

JAMA. 1980;244(16):1833. doi:10.1001/jama.1980.03310160049028

Out of sight, out of mind. As it is with people, so it is with diseases; prolonged absence leads to forgetting. In fact, if a disease vanishes for a long time, it is eventually eliminated from the pages of medical texts. In a recent article, Beeson1 calls attention to nine diseases that have thus disappeared from succeeding editions of Cecil's Textbook of Medicine since its first printing in 1927. The diseases are encephalitis lethargica, milk sickness, Mikulicz's disease, agranulocytic angina, Ayerza's disease, status thymicolymphaticus, Fröhlich's syndrome, chlorosis, and Banti's disease. Some of these diseases were actually eradicated through hygienic environmental changes, withdrawal of a toxic agent, or a change in the character of the infectious organism. Other diseases were since shown to be common denominators of several pathological processes or variants of other disorders already known and named.

Had Beeson begun his fascinating study with the texts of medieval