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Bruce, Sir David

carried medical organism studied

(1855–1931) British microbiologist: investigated undulant fever and sleeping sickness.

Bruce belongs to a tradition of military medical men who worked on tropical diseases in an age of colonial concern. He studied medicine at Edinburgh and joined the Army Medical Service in 1883. The next year he was posted to Malta. There he studied undulant fever (now called brucellosis) and in 1886 he isolated the causal bacterium. Later he and his assistants showed that unpasteurized goat’s milk carried the infection to the garrison there, and control followed. Later still it was found that the same organism caused contagious abortion in cattle and that it can be transmitted by a variety of animals.

In 1894 Bruce went to South Africa to study nagana, another disease of cattle, and soon showed it to be carried by the tsetse fly and to be due to a trypanosome, a protozoal parasite now named as Trypanosoma brucei . Soon Bruce and others showed that the human disease known as African sleeping sickness (trypanosomiasis) is due to the same organism, transmitted in the same way by the bite of the tsetse fly.

In 1912 Bruce was promoted to Surgeon-General and in the First World War was commandant of the Royal Army Medical College. His research was always carried out with his wife, Mary Elizabeth, a skilled microscopist. She shared all his work, including 2 years in a primitive hut in the Zululand bush studying nagana and a period as theatre nurse during the siege of Ladysmith, with Bruce as the surgeon.

Bruch, Max (Christian Friedrich) [next] [back] Bruce, Kathleen (Eveleth) (1885–1950) - U.S. History

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