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Reumatismo. 2007 Oct-Dec;59(4):332-7.

[Wars in the history of rheumatology].

[Article in Italian]

Author information

  • 1Cattedra di Reumatologia, Università di Pisa, Italia.


Some important discoveries in the history of rheumatology happened during war periods. It is well known that arthritis associated with conjunctivitis and urethritis, following dysenteric episodes, has been described during the First World War from the German Hans Reiter and, nearly contemporarily, from the French Nöel Fiessinger and Edgar Leroy. Less known is instead the fact that the first cases of sympathetic algoneurodystrophy have been reported by the American Silas Weir Mitchell in soldiers wounded by fire-arms, during the Civil War of Secession. Other war episodes have been crucial for the development of some drugs now abundantly applied to the care of rheumatic diseases. The discovery of therapeutic effects of immunosuppressive agents, in fact, happened as an indirect consequence of the use of poison gas, already during the First World War (mustard gas), but above all after an episode in the port of Bari in 1943, where an American cargo boat was sunk. It had been loaded with a quantity of cylinders containing a nitrogenous mustard, whose diffusion in the environment provoked more than 80 deaths owing to bone marrow aplasia.Moreover, the history of the cortisone shows a strict link to the Second World War, when Germany imported large quantities of bovine adrenal glands from Argentina, with the purpose of producing some gland extracts for the Luftwaffe aviators, in order to increase their performance ability.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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