Some famous and notorious people, a microbiologist must know (Part-1)

By Acharya Tankeshwar •  Updated: 05/04/22 •  3 min read

In this blog post, I am writing about some notable person, who has helped to shape the evolution of infectious disease and their research.

Some of them gave rays of hope in biomedical research but others spread diseases like Typhoid and AIDS knowingly to many others. All of these are ordinary (or extraordinary) people but not obviously biological scientists/microbiologists.

1. The Boy in the bubble

David also known as the “bubble boy” was born in 1971 with severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID), and was forced to live in a specially constructed sterile plastic bubble from birth until he died at age 12. He had to be isolated from all sources of infectious agents because he lacked both T Cells and B cells.

He lived in a series of specially designed germ-free “bubbles” for most of his life.  One such bubble was a self-contained, sterile spacesuit designed for him by NASA. At age 12 he received a bone marrow transplant intended to provide him with immune functions. In about 5 months, he died because of malignancy caused by the Epstein-Barr virus, which had contaminated the marrow transplant.

In 1976 a movie was made on this true story “The Boy in the Plastic Bubble”.  Now, kids with SCID can lead normal lives, if successfully treated by Gene Therapy.

Gaetan Dugas who spread HIV/AIDS to North America
Gaetan Dugas who spread HIV/AIDS to North America

2. Gaëtan Dugas – Patient Zero of AIDS in North America (“AIDS Mary”)

Gaëtan Dugas is a flight attendant who had thousands of sexual partners across North America. According to author Randy Shilts, Gaetan Dugas is a handsome blond steward for Air Canada, who used to serve the men on offer in gay bars.

At least 40 of the 248 people diagnosed with AIDS by April 1982 were thought to have had sex either with him or with someone who had. He died on March 30, 1984, at the age of 30 years.

View a video about him on YouTube here

3. Timothy Ray Brown- The Berlin Patient

Timothy Brown
Timothy Ray Brown-First patient cured of HIV/AIDS

Timothy Brown, famously known as “The Berlin Patient,” is thought to be the first and only individual functionally cured of HIV. He was diagnosed with HIV in 1995 and after a decade later he was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia as well.  He received a bone marrow transplant (with a mutation on the CCR5-delta32 gene).

Brown received two stem cell transplants that knocked out his cancer as well as HIV.  He founded Timothy Ray Brown Foundation in Washington, DC, a foundation dedicated to fighting HIV/AIDS.

Read more about fascinating cases of two people who have effectively vanquished HIV.Cured: The People Who Defeated HIV

You can watch an interview with Timothy Brown here

4. Henrietta Lacks and Hela Cell lines She is the source of the oldest and most commonly used human cell line, called Hela Cell lines.

Some other persons (not scientists) which I personally adore for their contribution:

5. Mary Fischer:  Mary Fisher (born April 6, 1948) is an American political activist, artist, and author. After contracting HIV from her husband, she has become an outspoken HIV/AIDS activist for the prevention, education, and compassionate treatment of people with HIV and AIDS. You can listen to Mary Fischer here and view her beautiful art collections on her personal website 

Acharya Tankeshwar

Hello, thank you for visiting my blog. I am Tankeshwar Acharya. Blogging is my passion. As an asst. professor, I am teaching microbiology and immunology to medical and nursing students at PAHS, Nepal. I have been working as a microbiologist at Patan hospital for more than 10 years.

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