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December 2017

Jay Frank Schamberg, MD—Beyond the Eponymous Disease

Author Affiliations
  • 1Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
  • 2Department of Dermatology, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
JAMA Dermatol. 2017;153(12):1242. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2017.4273

Jay Frank Schamberg, MD (1870-1934), was an American dermatologist who made remarkable contributions as a clinician, scientist, and public health advocate. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in 1892. After studying dermatology in Europe, he returned to Philadelphia, where he would live for the rest of his life.1

In 1901, Schamberg described 2 new conditions, one of which still bears his name.1 The first was characterized in a case report of a 15-year-old boy with irregular patches resembling “cayenne pepper,” introducing a food analogy still used to describe the pigmented purpuric dermatosis now called Schamberg disease. The second was a seasonal pruritic eruption. In 1909, this mysterious disease became an epidemic, affecting a yacht crew before spreading to other boats and buildings. Alarmed, Philadelphia officials consulted Schamberg, who immediately recognized the condition as the one he had described 8 years earlier. Joseph Goldberger, MD, of the US Public Health Service, collaborating with Schamberg, skillfully identified the causative agent as an acarine mite that had infested the straw mattresses of affected individuals.1 Although Goldberger named the condition Dermatitis schambergi, the label did not stick, and it is now typically known as grain itch.