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vol. 58
Letter to the Editor

National eponyms in medicine

Barbara Nieradko-Iwanicka

Chair and Department of Hygiene, Medical University of Lublin, Poland
Reumatologia 2020; 58, 16: 56-57
Online publish date: 2020/02/28
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JabRef, Mendeley
Papers, Reference Manager, RefWorks, Zotero
Dear Editor,
Giving a name to a street, school, lecture hall or hospital creates an individual space for these places and is a tribute to the person whose name is taken. In medicine, there has been a long tradition of commemorating the names of discoverers of disease phenomena, diagnostic tests and similar activities. On one hand, it facilitated communication between clinicians and researchers, but, as will be presented below, it does not always unify the name of the disease or facilitate contact between specialists. It also carries the risk of assessing history and the need to erase a person from its glorious chapters.
By definition, an eponym is a person, place or thing after whom or after which something is named. Especially in the past, eponyms were commonly used in medical vocabulary. “The French disease” or “the Italian disease” both meant syphilis, while “Spanish disease” was the name given to the great flu pandemic in 1918–1919. The “Guinea worm” is another name of Dracunculus medinensis (a parasite). The places of the first description of certain infectious diseases are remembered in such disease names as “German measles”, “Marburg virus disease”, “St Louis encephalitis” and “Rocky Mountain spotted fever”. Among Polish references there are “plica polonica” and “Poland syndrome”, the former meaning hair felting associated with lice eggs on hair, chemotherapy, azathioprine-induced pancytopenia, seborrheic dermatitis, schizophrenia, rupioid psoriasis, trichoma, pediculosis capitis and scabies [1]. Although in Polish medical literature it was first described in 1793 [2], in western Europe it became known after the publication of Joseph Kerchoff in 1814 [3]. His service as a military surgeon in the Napoleonic French Army inspired him to write about frequent occurrence of the entity in Poland, in Tartary, among Cossacks of Russia, in Hungary and in a few instances in Switzerland and France [3]. Now the disease is more often called “plica neuropathica”.
The latter – an anomaly called “Poland syndrome” – was first described by Alfred Poland. He was a medical student at Guy’s Hospital in 1840–1841. Poland recognized absence of the major pectoral muscle in a 27-year-old ex-convict and published the case report in 1841 [4]. Other authors also described a few cases of congenital absence of pectoral major and minor muscles on one side of the body accompanied by chest and upper extremity deformities on the same side [5].
In the 21st...

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