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December 2016

Preventing Syphilis in the 20th Century—The Metchnikoff Pomade

Author Affiliations
  • 1University Institute of History of Medicine, Claude Bernard University, Lyon, France
  • 2Department of Medical Biopathology, Aeginition Hospital, Medical School, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Athens, Greece
JAMA Dermatol. 2016;152(12):1334. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2016.0063

At the beginning of the 20th century, syphilis was still a threatening infection. Syphilologists ignored the natural course of the disease, treponemal serum tests did not exist, and the positive Wassermann reaction was erroneously attributed exclusively to Treponema pallidum infection. Guaiac, mercury, arsenic compounds, and potassium iodide, in various forms, were the main therapeutic options with disappointing results.1