Section : Teledermatology

Warts and Molluscum Contagiosum: How they were shown NOT to be bacterial in origin

  • In the early 20th century (1919)  two American dermatologists* sought to determine the origin of warts and molluscum contagiosum:
    • To do this they curetted tissue from the 2 lesions and added saline.  after “mincing them”, they passed it through a filter to remove all bacteria (Berkefeld filter)
    • They then auto-inoculated themselves and volunteers with the filtered lesions
    • The lesions reappeared !…and were biopsy confirmed.
  • This refuted earlier theories that the lesions were bacterial in origin.
  • It is also known that the younger author did most of the work and that’s kind of unsurprising, isn’t it !
  • It is now widely known that both lesions are viral in origin:
    • Warts are cause by viruses of the Human Papilloma Type (HPV)
    • Molluscum Contagiosum is due to a DNA Poxvirus

*Dr Udo J. Wile (1882-1965) and Dr Lyle B. Kingery (1892-1972)

Source of information: Crissey JT el al. Dermatology and Dermatologists (2002). Parthenon Publishing