VOICE ONE :
This is SCIENCE IN THE NEWS in VOA Special
English. I'm Bob Doughty.
I'm Faith Lapidus. This week, the
stories of some medical heroes.
the start of the twentieth century, the United States Army had a Yellow Fever
Commission. The Army wanted medical
experts to study yellow fever and find a way to stop the disease. One team went to Cuba to test the idea that
mosquitoes spread yellow fever. The team
was led by Walter Reed, the Army doctor and scientist noted for his work on
In August of nineteen hundred, the researchers began to
raise mosquitoes and infect them with the virus. Nine of the Americans let the infected
insects bite them. Nothing happened. Then two more let the mosquitoes bite
them. Both men developed yellow
A doctor named Jesse William Lazear recognized that the
mosquitoes that bit the last two men had been older than the others. Doctor Lazear proved that mosquitoes did carry
Lazear himself was also bitten. No one
is sure how it happened. He said it
happened accidentally as he treated others. But some people said he placed the mosquito on his arm as part of the
experiment. Medical historians say he
may have reported the bite as an accident so his family would not be denied
money from his life insurance policy.
Jesse Lazear died of yellow fever. His death shocked the others on the team in
Cuba. But they continued their work.
people let themselves be bitten by mosquitoes. Others were injected with blood from victims of yellow fever. Some people in this test group developed the
disease, but all recovered to full health.
Members of the team praised the work by
Jesse Lazear. They called it a sacrifice
to research that led the way to one of the greatest medical discoveries of the
research answered the question of how yellow fever was spread. Now the question was how to protect
people. The researchers had a
theory. They thought that people who
were bitten by infected mosquitoes, but recovered, were protected in the
test this idea, the team in Cuba offered one hundred dollars to anyone who
would agree to be bitten by infected mosquitoes. Nineteen people agreed. The only American was Clara Maass. She was a nurse who worked with yellow fever
patients in Cuba.
Maass was bitten by infected mosquitoes seven times between March and August of
nineteen-oh-one. Only one of the
nineteen people developed the disease -- until that August. Then seven people got yellow fever. Clara Maass died six days after she was
bitten for the seventh time.
experiment showed that the bite of an infected mosquito was not a safe way to
protect people from yellow fever. Medical historians say the death of Clara Maass also created a public
protest over the use of humans in yellow fever research. Such experiments ended.
the United States both honored Clara Maass on postage stamps. And today a hospital in her home state of New
Jersey is known as Clara Maass Medical Center.
Joseph Goldberger was a doctor for the United States
Public Health Service. In nineteen
twelve, he began to study a skin disease that was killing thousands of people
in the South. The disease was pellagra.
Goldberger traveled to the state of Mississippi where many people suffered from
pellagra. He studied the victims and
their families. Most of the people were
poor. The doctor came to believe that
the disease was not infectious, but instead related to diet.
He received permission from the state governor to test
this idea at a prison. Prisoners were
offered pardons if they took part. One
group of prisoners received their usual foods, mostly corn products. A second group ate meat, fresh vegetables and
Members of the first group developed
pellagra. The second group did not.
But some medical researchers refused to
accept that a poor diet caused pellagra. For the South, pellagra was more than simply a medical problem. There were other issues involved, including
So Doctor Goldberger had himself injected with blood
from a person with pellagra. He also
took liquid from the nose and throat of a pellagra patient and put them into
his own nose and throat. He even swallowed
pills that contained skin from pellagra patients.
An assistant also took part in the
experiments. So did Doctor Goldberger's
wife. None of them got sick.
the doctor discovered that a small amount of dried brewer's yeast each day
could prevent pellagra.
Goldberger died of cancer in nineteen twenty-nine. He was fifty-five years old. Several years later, researchers discovered
the exact cause of pellagra: a lack of the B vitamin known as niacin.
Lukwiya was the medical administrator of Saint Mary's Hospital in the Gulu
District of northern Uganda. In two
thousand, the hospital was the center of treatment for an outbreak of
Ebola. The virus causes severe bleeding. No cure is known. Doctors can only hope that victims are strong
enough to survive.
Doctor Lukwiya acted quickly to control
the spread of infection. He kept the
people with Ebola separate from the other patients. He ordered hospital workers to wear
protective clothing and follow other safety measures.
day he had to deal with a patient who was dying of Ebola. The man had been acting out of control. The doctor knew him well. The patient was a nurse who worked at the
hospital. The man was coughing and
bleeding. Doctor Lukwiya violated one of
his own rules. He wore no protection
over his eyes.
Matthew Lukwiya died from the virus in December of two
thousand. He was forty-two years
old. Ugandans mourned his death. He was an important influence in the
community. Experts say his work during
the outbreak helped stop the Ebola virus from spreading out of control.
On February twenty-eighth, two thousand three, the
Vietnam-France Hospital in Hanoi asked Carlo Urbani for help. The Italian doctor was an expert on
communicable diseases. He was based in
Vietnam for the World Health Organization.
hospital asked Doctor Urbani to help identify an unusual infection. He recognized it as a new threat. He made sure other hospitals increased their
March eleventh, Doctor Urbani developed signs of severe acute respiratory
syndrome. Four days later, the World
Health Organization declared it a worldwide health threat.
Urbani was the first doctor to warn the world of the disease that became known
as SARS. He died of it on March
twenty-ninth, two thousand three. He was
forty-six years old.
final medical hero is molecular biologist Anita Roberts. She was widely recognized by other
researchers for her work with a protein called transforming growth
factor-beta. TGF-beta can both heal
wounds and make healthy cells cancerous.
nineteen seventy-six, Anita Roberts joined the National Cancer Institute, part
of the National Institutes of Health in the United States. She worked for many years with another
researcher, Michael Sporn.
found that TGF-beta helps to heal wounds and is important in the body's defense
system against disease. At the same
time, though, the two scientists found that the protein can also support the
growth of cancer in some cells.
Between nineteen eighty-three and two
thousand two, Anita Roberts published more than three hundred forty research
papers. Many other scientists gave
credit to her published work. In fact,
the publication Science Watch listed her as the forty-ninth most-cited
researcher in the world during that twenty-year period. She was the third most-cited female scientist.
in two thousand four, after years of studying cancer, Anita Roberts learned
that she herself had the disease. She
died of gastric cancer in May of two thousand six. She was sixty-four years old.
program was written by Nancy Steinbach and George Grow. Brianna Blake was our producer. I'm Faith Lapidus.
I'm Bob Doughty. Internet users can
download transcripts and audio archives of our programs at
voaspecialenglish.com. And we hope you
join us again next week for more news about science in Special English on the
Voice of America.