- Jesse Lazear
Jesse Lazear (1866-1900), American physician and U.S. Army Yellow Fever Commission member, traveled to Cuba in 1900 to study the disease. Lazear was convinced that the best available evidence suggested a living host for yellow fever. Determined to uncover the source of the illness, Commission members decided to test the theory of mosquito transmission. Lazear hatched mosquito eggs and let the mosquitoes feed on patients infected with yellow fever at a Havana hospital. The mosquitoes were then allowed to feed on study volunteers, and they fell ill with yellow fever. These experiments validated the theory that mosquitoes (specifically, the Aedes aegypti variety) were the transmission vector of yellow fever. The researchers went on to rule out a bacterium as the disease agent. They determined that an infectious particle too small to be filtered with a standard bacterial filter was the source of the disease: the first human virus ever discovered. (German scientists had identified the virus that caused foot-and-mouth disease in animals in 1898.) The two men Lazear exposed to yellow fever via the experiment’s mosquitoes recovered. Lazear himself, however, was not so lucky. It is likely that he allowed himself to be bitten as part of the experiment. Lazear contracted yellow fever and died in September 1900, at age 34.
- The Historical Medical Library of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia
- Timeline Category:
Diseases & Vaccines
The Historical Medical Library of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia. Owen, Robert Latham. Yellow fever; a compilation of various publications. Washington: Govt Printing Office, 1911.