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Feature Christmas 2018: Look Before You Leap

Adventures in self experimentation

BMJ 2018; 363 doi: (Published 11 December 2018) Cite this as: BMJ 2018;363:k5006

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Re: Adventures in self experimentation

Historically it seems that self-inoculation of the genito-urinary tract has occurred less often than at other anatomical sites. In 1767, John Hunter inoculated himself in the genital tract with pus from a patient with gonorrhoea and developed syphilis. He concluded, erroneously, that the two conditions were caused by one agent. As a consequence of the unresolved question of whether ureaplasmas were human pathogens, in 1977 George Csonka and I inoculated ourselves intra-urethrally with Ureaplasma urealyticum (1). We had the microbiological advantage over Hunter in being able to clone this bacterium so that the inoculum contained ureaplasmas only. They did cause urethritis in both subjects which was responsive to antibiotic therapy. Although not producing disease as severe as that caused by gonococcal or chlamydial organisms we were able to conclude that Koch's postulates had been fulfilled and that ureaplasmas should not be ignored.
1. Taylor-Robinson D, Csonka GW, Prentice MJ. Human intra-urethral inoculation of ureaplasmas. Quart J Med 1977,46:309-27

Competing interests: No competing interests

15 December 2018
David Taylor-Robinson
Imperial College London
1 Baytrees