Tuberculosis (TB), the "white plague," claimed more lives than any other disease in 19th-century Philadelphia. Early bacteriologists at Penn looked at ways to diagnose TB and understand its transmission from humans to humans and from animals to humans. In 1903 industrialist Henry Phipps founded the Henry Phipps Institute for the Study and Prevention of Tuberculosis to tackle this scourge. At that time, bacteriological work was limited to the detection of tubercle bacilli in the sputum. In 1910 Phipps handed his research and treatment center over to the University of Pennsylvania. Penn faculty became active at both institutions and Penn medical students received training in disease prevention and treatment. Valuable epidemiological studies and perhaps most importantly, a standardized tuberculin to diagnose TB emerged from Phipps during its half-century relationship with Penn. In more recent years, advances in the rapid diagnosis of TB have made its treatment more effective. The William Pepper Laboratory has moved forward with these developments, shifting from classical tuberculin testing to state-of-the-art molecular diagnosis.



Phipps microbiologists