Spring 2013 University Medical Microbiology
HW #4: Tuskegee Project
In 1932, the Public Health Service alongside with the Tuskegee Institute, initiated a study relating with syphilis; specifically experimenting if it effected African Americans differently than European Americans. The theory to conduct this experiment was to see if syphilis in the whites experienced more neurological complications whereas blacks were more prone to cardiovascular damage (“The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment”). The experiment involved a total of 600 black males which 399 of them had syphilis and 201 did not have syphilis. These uneducated black males were from the poorest counties in Alabama and was never informed what kind of disease they were suffering from. The only information they received was that they were being treated for “bad blood”. In exchange for participating in the study, the men received free medical exams, free meals, and burial insurance. (National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention)
The white male doctors along with a skilled, African American PHS nurse assigned to monitor them, Eunice Rivers, had no motive to help cure the disease that these men had. Eunice Rivers gained the trust of these African American males very quickly and dealt with their problems; which also gave her the respect from the physicians. Their intentions were only to collect the data needed from their autopsies. This research lasted 40 years which in the process of gathering their data, a majority of the participants had died; some from the disease and some because of complications. Not only did those males die but 40 of the males also infected their wives which then infected 19 of their children with congenital syphilis.
Syphilis is a disease spread during sexual intercourse and can also be passed from mother to child during pregnancy. It’s caused by Treponema pallidum, which is a bacterium that’s shaped like a corkscrew called spirochete. This organism lives...