Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Joseph Goldberger (1874–1929) - American physician and epidemiologist who discover Niacin

Joseph Goldberger was born on July 16, 1874 in Giralt, Hungary, then a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. His parents were sheep herders, whose flock was decimated by sickness.

When he was 7 years old, his parents took him to the United States. The family settled in New York City, where his father opened a grocery.

Goldberger attended the city’s public schools and was graduated from the College of the City of New York in 1892. Goldberger then became a student at the Bellevue Hospital Medical School, graduating second in his class three years later in 1895.

Bored and intellectually restless in private practice in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, the young, shy physician joined the United States Marine Hospital Service, (later the U.S. Public Health Service or PHS) in 1899 at the beginning rank of Assistant Surgeon. His early work with arriving immigrants at Ellis Island made him a standout investigator for detecting infectious diseases and he became a well-known epidemiologist

Between 1902 and 1907 Goldberger studied typhus and yellow fever in Cuba and in Mexico. Because of his ability in research, he was assigned in 1904 to the Hygienic Laboratory in Washington, D.C.

In 1909, he published his research on Shamberg's disease, an ailment characterized by continuous itching and elaborate skin eruptions similar to those of smallpox.

In 1914, Joseph Goldberger, a medical officer in the US Public Health Service was appointed by Surgeon General to lead the investigation of pellagra. By 1912, the state of South Carolina alone had reported 30,000 cases of pellagra, with a case fatality rate of 40%.

Joseph Goldberger's theory on pellagra contradicted commonly-held medical opinions. The work of Italian investigators as well as Goldberger's own observations in mental hospitals, orphanages, and cotton mill towns, convinced him that germs did not cause the disease.

He noticed that those caring for pellagra patients did not contract the disease. To prove that it could not be transmitted, he and a colleague injected themselves with blood from pellagra victims and suffered no ill effects.

In 1914 Goldberger designed and implemented two experiments to assess whether improving the diet of institutionalized children and adults would prevent pellagra They were deprived of milk and fresh meat. Within months, six had pellagra. An experiment with rats showed similar results.

He concluded that the disease was caused by the absence of some factor that was lacking in corn, but that could be found in meat and milk. He named it the P-P (for pellagra-preventative) factor.

In 1937 Conrad Arnold Elvehjem identified two vitamins, nicotinic acid, also known as niacin, and nicotinamide, which were deficient directly in human pellagra. He induced a black tongue in dogs by feeding them the Goldberger diet, and then cured the disease by supplementing their diet with nicotinic acid.
Joseph Goldberger (1874–1929) - American physician and epidemiologist who discover Niacin

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