Journal of Clinical Immunology

, Volume 38, Issue 3, pp 247–250 | Cite as

From Ignác Semmelweis to Primary Immunodeficiencies: a Bicentenary Commemoration

  • László Maródi
Letter to Editor


From time to time, painters emerge who paint new colors, creating new moods in painting. Baudelaire’s moods and ideas were unknown before he arose, reported them in poems, and taught us new ways to think about poetry.

[Endre Ady, Hungarian poet]

Art and science are like two branches of the same tree. The nineteenth century was an extraordinary period for art and literature in Europe, but it also witnessed extraordinary discoveries in biology and clinical medicine [1]. Ignác Semmelweis, a Hungarian physician born 200 years ago in Buda, was one of those responsible for the development of new ideas concerning human diseases [2]. He investigated the epidemiology of puerperal fever (childbed fever) and described effective methods for its prevention. His groundbreaking observation that the use of a solution of chlorinated lime (calcium hypochlorite) for handwashing before the examination of patients prevented disease led to him being regarded as the father of asepsis [3].

Giants of...



I thank Jean-Laurent Casanova, Melinda Erdős, and Zoltán Papp for encouraging me to write this editorial and for the helpful suggestions and Katalin Mikecz for offering the picture of Semmelweis.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The author declares that he has no conflict of interest.


  1. 1.
    Facos M. An introduction to nineteenth century art. London: Routledge; 2011.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Antall J. Vienna and Budapest in Semmelweis’ life work. Wien Med Wochenschr. 1988;132(7):161–7. (German)Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Semmelweis I. The etiology, concept, and prophylaxis of childbed fever, translated by K Codell Carter. Madison: The University of Wisconsin Press; 1983.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Dunn PM. Ignac Semmelweis (1818–1865) of Budapest and the prevention of puerperal fever. Arch Dis Child Fetal Neonatal Ed. 2005;90(4):F345–8.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Adriaanse AH, Pel M, Bleker OP. Semmelweis: the combat against puerperal fever. Eur J Obstet Gynecol Reprod Biol. 2000;90(2):153–8.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Fleming JB. Semmelweis commemoration. Puerperal fever: the historical development of its treatment. Proc R Soc Med. 1966;59(4):341–5.PubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Snow J. On the mode of communication of cholera. 2nd ed. London: Churchil; 1855.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Dubos R. Louis Pasteur. New York: Free Lance of Science. Charles Scribner’s Sons; 1976.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Koch R. Die aetiologie der tuberculose [the etiology of tuberculosis]. Berl Klin Wochenschr (Berlin Clinical Weekly). 1882;19:221–30.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Avery OT, MacLeod CM, McCarty M. Studies on the chemical nature of the substance inducing transformation of pneumococcal types. J Exp Med. 1944;79:137–58.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Watson JD, Crick FHC. Molecular structure of nucleic acids. A structure for deoxyribose nucleic acid. Nature. 1953;171:737–8.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Picard C, Casanova Jl. Evolution of the definition of primary immunodeficiency. In: Etzioni A, Ochs H (eds), Primary Immunodeficiency Disorders, A Historic and Scientific Perspective. Amsterdam, Boston, Heidlberg: Academic Press; 2014. pp. 29–40.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Nuland SB. The enigma of Semmelweis—an interpretation. J Hist Med Allied Sci. 1979;34(3):255–72.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Céline F-L. The life and work of Semmelweis. Paris: Little, Brown, and Company, trans Parker RA; 1937.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Lister J. On the antiseptic principle in the practice of surgery. Lancet. 1867;90(2299):353–6.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Antall J, Kapronczay K, Vida M. Pictures from the past of the healing arts: a guidebook to the Semmelweis museum, library and archives. Second revised and abridged edition. Commun Hist Artis Med Suppl. 1993;18:1–89.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Bjørneboe J. Semmelweis, translated by Joe Martin. Oslo:Sun and Moon Press; 1998.Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Lustig, Raymond, Doherty, Matthew. Semmelweis: For solo voices, womens’ choir, and ensemble. New York; 2017.Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Boice JM, Pittet D. Guideline for hand hygiene in health-care settings. Recommendations of the Healthcare Infection Control Practices Advisory Committee and the HIPAC/SHEA/APIC/IDSA Hand Hygiene Task Force. Am J Infect Control. 2002;30:S1–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Larson EL. APIC Guidelines Committee: APIC Guideline. Am J Infect Control. 1995;23:251–8.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Goldrick BA, Dingle DA, Gilmore GK, Curchoe RM, Plackner CL, Fabrey LJ. Practice analysis for infection control and epidemiology in the new millennium. Am J Infect Control. 2002;30(8):437–48.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Ardura MI. Overview of infections complicating pediatric hematopoietic cell transplantation. Infect Dis Clin N Am. 2018;32(1):237–52.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    Maródi L, Casanova JL. Primary immunodeficiencies may reveal potential infectious diseases associated with immune-targeting mAb treatments. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2010;126(5):910–7.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Baptista MI, Nona J, Ferreira M, Sampaio I, Abrantes M, Tomé MT, et al. Invasive fungal infection in neonatal intensive care units : a multicenter survey. J Chemother. 2016;28(1):37–43.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Casanova JL. Human genetic basis of interindividual variability in the course of infection. Proc Nat Acad Sci USA. 2015;112:E7118–27.PubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    Liu L, Okada S, Kong XF, Kreins AY, Cypowyj S, Abhyankar A, et al. Gain-of-function human STAT1 mutations impair IL-17 immunity and underlie chronic mucocutaneous candidiasis. J Exp Med. 2011;208(8):1635–48.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  27. 27.
    Soltész B, Tóth B, Sarkadi AK, Erdős M, Maródi L. The evolving view of IL-17-mediated immunity in defense against mucocutaneous candidiasis in humans. Int Rev Immunol. 2015;34(4):348–63.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© This is a U.S. Government work and not under copyright protection in the US; foreign copyright protection may apply 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Semmelweis UniversityBudapestHungary
  2. 2.The Rockefeller UniversityNew YorkUSA

Personalised recommendations