Histoplasmosis historical perspective

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]; Associate Editor(s)-in-Chief: Serge Korjian M.D., Vidit Bhargava, M.B.B.S [2], Aravind Kuchkuntla, M.B.B.S[3]


Histoplasma capsulatum was first described by Samuel Taylor Darling in 1906, who coined the term to describe the "plasmodium-like" organisms in the histocytes. In 1912, Henrique da Rocha-Lima, a Brazilian tropical disease specialist, reported findings from a comparison between Leishmania and Histoplasma and concluded that Histoplasma more closely resembled a yeast than a protozoan. In the late 1940s, William A. DeMonbreun, the first person to culture the organism, suggested that the disease may be prevalent in the United States due to mild and carrier forms.[1]

Historical Perspective

Initial Discovery


Isolation and Culture

  • In 1928, Dr. Edna H. Tompkins identified the first case of histoplasmosis by demonstrating the organism on the blood smear.
  • In 1933, Dr. William A. DeMonbreun of Vanderbilt University became the first person to successfully culture Histoplasma capsulatum species from the same patient identified by Dr. Tompkins.
  • Dr. DeMonbreun also fulfilled Koch's postulates after he injected the culture material into animals.
  • He also suggested that the disease may not be as low in prevalence as initially hypothesized due to mild and carrier forms.
  • In 1948, Dr. Chester W. Emmons isolated and cultured Histoplasma capsulatum from a soil sample for the first time.[1]

Histoplasmosis in Popular Culture

  • Johnny Cash included a reference to the disease, and correctly noted its source in bird droppings, in the song "Beans for Breakfast".
  • Bob Dylan was hospitalized due to histoplasmosis in 1997, causing the cancellation of concerts in the United Kingdom and Switzerland.
  • In the episode Family, episode 21 of season 3 of the television show 'House, M.D.' a patient was diagnosed with histoplasmosis.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 BAUM GL, SCHWARZ J (1957). "The history of histoplasmosis, 1906 to 1956". N Engl J Med. 256 (6): 253–8. doi:10.1056/NEJM195702072560605. PMID 13400245.
  2. Hegner RW (1925). "SAMUEL TAYLOR DARLING 1872-1925". Science. 62 (1593): 23–4. doi:10.1126/science.62.1593.23. PMID 17738786.