GERHARD HANSEN VS. ALBERT NEISSER: PRIORITY FOR THE INVENTION OF MYCOBACTERIUM LEPRAE AND PROBLEMS OF BIOETHICS.
The article is interdisciplinary in nature and covers a wide range of issues in the history of medicine, morality and bioethics. Biographies of the Norwegian microbiologist G. Hansen and the German doctor, biologist, syphilologist A. Neisser are presented. The main attention is focused on the scientific achievements of these researchers in terms of infectious diseases and leprosy in particular. The authors focused not only on the significance of scientific discoveries, but also tried to show that any scientist, even an outstanding one, remains a person with his/her unique character, personal life and friendships, authority in the scientific community and mistakes, desire to gain fame and recognition. The main focus is on the scientific achievements of these researchers in the study of infectious diseases and leprosy in particular. The conflict over the priority for discovery of the leprosy pathogen has been highlighted. Attention is given to the conflict regarding the priority in discovery of the causative agent of leprosy. The authors compared the impact of the international scientific scandal on the priority for the discovery of Mycobacterium leprae, which involved virtually the entire scientific community of Europe at the time, on both scientists. It has been shown that most scientists unambiguously sided with G. Hansen, who was not only the author of the revolutionary hypothesis of the contagious and bacterial nature of leprosy at the time, but also the pioneer of the causative agent of this disease, as evidenced by the synonymous name Mycobacterium leprae - bacillus Hansen. Nevertheless, for a prominent scientist, the consequences of an unethical experiment on intentional additional infection of a patient became quite tragic, since he lost his license to practice medicine, and was put to a trial were his actions were found to be incompatible with the high-ranking status of a doctor, even though he was the unsalaried chief leprologist of Norway until his death. The biography of A. Neisser, who became the culprit of this high-profile scientific scandal, was simultaneously studied. It is shown that a series of A. Neisser's experimental studies on another threatening disease - syphilis, by inoculation also led to a scandal, ironically, similar to that one around the name of Hansen. However, neither his reputation, nor his medical license, or his further scientific career suffered a significant impact, although it has become a precedent for obtaining informed consent from persons taking part in clinical trials. The findings revealed that, despite the desire to serve science and humanity, compliance with the rules of bioethics, as well as human morality, should remain an integral component in the work of any medical scientist.