Wednesday, April 16th, 2014


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The Discovery of Trichomonas vaginalis
Authors:  Steven I. Hajdu, M.D., F.I.A.C.
  Alexandre DonnÈ (1801-1878), physician, microscopist and professor at the Faculty of Paris, was the first to describe a living pathogenic organism, Trichomonas vaginalis, in humans. His article, ìAnimalcules observÈs dans les matiËres purulentes et le produit des sÈcrÈtions des organes gÈnitaux de l‘homme et de la femme,î was published in the Comptes Rendues de l‘AcadËmie des Sciences, Paris, 1836;3:385-386. DonnÈ coined the term Tricho-monas because of some similarities to Tricodes and Monas (flagellar protozoa known at that time). He indicated that Trichomonas moves with an undulating motion, has a whiplike tail and survives in such milieu as vaginal mucus. Therefore, he wrote, it is proper to call it Trichomonas vaginale. A year later, in 1837, DonnÈ included an engraving of Trichomonas vaginalis, for the first time, in his memoir on mucus and genitourinary secretions. Subsequently, in 1845, DonnÈ, in Cours de microscopie: complÈmentaire des Ètudes mÈdicales anatomie microscopique et physiologie des fluides de l‘Èconomie, the first medical book with illustrations obtained through photomicrography and not lithography, included 86 photomicrographs illustrating vaginal epithelial cells, ciliated respiratory epithelial cells and white blood cells (among other things) and a superb photomicrograph of a vaginal smear (Figure 1) containing ìpusî cells (b), ìtricho-monasî (c) and epithelial cells. His microscopic atlas was not only the first cytology atlas but also the first monograph on cytology. DonnÈ was not certain what disease, if any, Trichomonas could cause but stated that it is always found in association with pathologic conditionsó for example, gonorrhea and syphilisóand never seen in normal vaginal secretions. He added that the purulent mucus in which the organisms are found may contribute to various diseases of the uterine cervix. As an aside, DonnÈ also discovered the third blood corpuscles, or platelets, with his rudimentary microscope in 1842.
Keywords:  Trichomonas vaginalis; photomicrography; Donne, Alexandre
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