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Who Discovered E Coli & Other Harmful Bacteria?

written by: •edited by: Paul Arnold•updated: 8/7/2009

Bugs can cause big problems. Identifying disease-causing microbes is the first step in developing strategies to outsmart and defeat them. The scientific landscape is populated with heroic bug chasers who have discovered the causative agents of disease, and in some cases given their names to them

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    Bug Chasers and Bug Problems

    These are just a few of the famous scientists in biology who have shaped our knowledge of bugs, and bug problems.

    Karl Joseph Eberth (1835-1926) - discovered the bacterium that causes typhoid fever. He was a German bacteriologist and the bacterium was given the name Eberth's bacillus or Eberthella typhi. It is now known as Salmonella typhi. He observed the bacilli in the spleens and lymph nodes of typhoid victims. In 1884 George Gaffky became the first scientist to isolate the typhoid-causing bacillus, which he extracted from the spleen of a typhoid victim

    Theodor Escherich (1857-1911) - discovered the bacterium Escherichia coli (E.coli) in 1885, which can cause severe cases of food poisoning, and is commonly found in the lower intestines of mammals. Escherich was a German paediatrician and biologist who devoted his life to studying bacteriology, and improving infant child care. He discovered the bacterium whilst trying to find out the cause of fatal intestinal diseases in children. He made an inventory of the bugs that live in the intestines of healthy children by studying infant feces, and compared them with the bugs found in sick children. Among the microbes that he discovered was a rod-shaped microbe that could grow quickly and that he called Bacillus communis coli, which was dubbed E.coli after his death.

    Alexander Ogston (1844-1929) - discovered the bacterium Staphylococcus aureus, the common cause of skin infections such as pimples, impetigo, and boils. Ogston was a surgeon and bacteriologist who studied the work of Pasteur and Lister. In studying wound infections he postulated that abscesses were caused by microbes. He injected pus from abscesses into guinea pigs and mice and showed that new abscesses formed. He found, and named the bug Staphylococcus aureus when he studied the blood of the infected animals. Further, when he treated the pus with heat or carbolic acid, and then injected it into the animals, there was no abscess formation.

    Daniel Elmer Salmon (1850-1914) - was a veterinary surgeon whose name is given to salmonella, though he didn't discover it. The bacterium was isolated by his research assistant Theobald Smith (1859-1934) whilst he was trying to look for the microbial agent that caused hog cholera. Salmonella is one of the most common causes of food poisoning.

    Part 2 can be read here