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Clin Infect Dis. 2002 Sep 15;35(6):713-20. Epub 2002 Aug 23.

A legacy in 20th-century medicine: Robert Allan Phillips and the taming of cholera.

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  • 1United States Naval Medical Research Center, Silver Spring, MD, 20910, USA.


The legacy of Captain Robert Allan Phillips (1906-1976) was to establish effective, evidence-based rehydration methods for the treatment of cholera. As a Navy Lieutenant at the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research (New York, New York) during World War II, Phillips developed a field method for the rapid assessment of fluid loss in wounded servicemen. After the war, he championed the establishment of United States Naval Medical Research Unit (NAMRU)-3 (Cairo; 1946) and NAMRU-2 (Taipei; 1955), serving at the helm of both units. Phillips embarked on cholera studies during the 1947 Egyptian cholera epidemic and brought them to maturity at NAMRU-2 (1958-1965), elucidating the pathophysiologic derangements induced by cholera and developing highly efficacious methods of intravenous rehydration. His conception of a simpler cholera treatment was realized in the late 1960s with the development of glucose-based oral rehydration therapy, a monumental breakthrough to which many other investigators made vital contributions. Today, these simple advances have been integrated into everyday medical practice across the globe, saving millions of lives annually.

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