Intended for healthcare professionals


Give a disease a bad name

BMJ 2004; 329 doi: (Published 29 July 2004) Cite this as: BMJ 2004;329:272
  1. H V Wyatt, retired medical scientist
  1. Hollyshaw Terrace, Leeds

    Diseases may be known by the localities where they were first described or were common. Thus undulant fever, a particularly debilitating illness that often led to rheumatism, became known as Malta fever—to which many Maltese objected. There were many other names for it: Rock or Gibraltar fever, as well as Cyprus, Neapolitan, Italian, and Crimean fever. But Malta fever was the favoured name. Mediterranean fever was recommended by an international congress but was really unsuitable as the fever was found in many other localities.

    Sir David Bruce discovered the causative organism in the spleen of a soldier who had died in Malta …

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