Paul Ehrlich ( 1854-1915 )

Pronunciation key

( poul ârliH )
( English: ârlik )

Paul Ehrlich ( 1854-1915 )

German bacteriologist and physician who received the Nobel prize in medicine in 1908.

Paul Ehrlich
"In the early part of the 20th century Paul Ehrlich began to search for ‘the silver bullet’ against the syphilis spirochete. He was inspired by Breinl and Thomas’s success treating sleeping sickness with an organic arsenical. In 1907 he synthesized arsphenamine (later marketed as Salvarsan) with contained 32% arsenic.†
The treatment was lengthy and unpleasant. It was given by intravenous infusion and would be alternated with intramuscular mercury. Two month courses of intravenous arsphenamine would then be alternated with intramuscular Bismuth. The minimum duration of treatment would exceed 18 months and comprise about 60 injections.‡
Silver arsphenamine was also used intravenously in children to treat congenital syphilis. Its dark brown color made it difficult to ensure the syringe was in a vein. When injected extravenously, it caused an acute tissue necrosis often followed by a generalised exfoliative dermatitis.†† An effective treatment was not possible until dimercaprol was available (originally developed to treat arsenical blister gas in world war II)."

A History of Unethical Research: Syphilology
†Thorburn AL. Paul Ehrlich:pioneer of chemotherapy and cure by arsenic (1854-1915). Br J Vener Dis. 1983;59(6):404-5.
‡Marlow FW Jr. Syphilis then and now. JAMA 1974;230(9):1320-1.
††Snedden IB. Then and now. Clin and Exp Dermatol 1984;9:3-17.


  • Webster's New World Dictionary of the American Language (College Edition) ©1955
  • A History of Unethical Research: Syphilology
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