Section : History & Terminology

Bubo (inflammed lymph node): remembering the plague

  • The term comes from Greek:

    βoυβớν = boubon = swelling of the inguinal glande

  • In other words it is an adenopathy of inguinal lymph mode – also called bubon.
  • Today the term is less and less used probably because Hippocrates (of Kos) described it for thé plague, which was prevalent in Ancient Times.
  • The bubo is the most prevalent manifestation in the plague: it appears 2-5 days after the bacteria (Yersinia Pestis) is inoculated by bites from fleas living on rodents (rats).
  • Alexander Yersin (student of Louis Pasteur) discovered the responsible agent in 1894 in Indochina by examining tissue from the bubo. At the same time a Japanese Baron and physician Kitasato Shibasaburō (北里 柴三郎) was unable to find the agent when examining internal organs and blood.
  • The term bubo is/was also used in sexually transmitted conditions such as syphilis, chancroid, lymphogranuloma venereum (Nicolas-Favre disease) and tuberculosis (scrofuloderma)


Dr Christophe Hsu – dermatologist. Geneva, Switzerland

Source of information: Harms M. Dermatologica Helvetica (The Swiss Journal of Dermatology and Venereology)