Lustig, Alessandro

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Lustig, Alessandro

(b. Trieste, Austria [now Italy], 5 May 1857; d. Marina di Pietrasanta, Lucca, Italy, 23 September 1937)

pathology, bacteriology.

Lustig received his medical degree at Vienna in 1882, then was an assistant at the Institute of Physiology in Vienna and, in 1884, at the Institute of Physiology at Innsbruck. He next went to Turin, where he obtained an Italian medical degree; soon afterward he started his scientific work in the research laboratory of the Mauriziano Hospital in Turin. In 1886, during a cholera epidemic, Lustig tended the victims in lazarettos; his investigations on the disease carried out at that time are among the earliest contributions to its study after the discovery of Vibrio cholerae by Koch (1884). He was appointed professor of general pathology at the University of Cagliari in Sardinia in 1889, and in 1890 at Florence, where he worked until his retirement in 1932.

Lustig began his scientific activity in histology and physiology. He dealt with the nerve ends of smooth muscles, epithelial degeneration of the olfactory membrane after destruction of the olfactory lobe, myocardial changes after section of extracardial nerves, the effects of celiectomy, the etiology of endemic goiter, and experimental acetonuria.

From 1891 Lustig’s activity was mainly in bacteriology, immunology, and the prevention of infections. After his investigations on cholera, he devoted further study to the bacteriology of this infection and published an excellent monograph on the detection of water bacteria. In 1897, with his pupil G. Galeotti, Lustig extracted from Bacterium pestis a substance having the chemical characteristics of nucleoproteids, and demonstrated its immunizing properties: these investigations stand, in the history of bacteriology and immunology, as one of the first attempts at chemical identification of a bacterial antigen and at using chemically defined antigens to induce active immunity.

These substances were used by Lustig and his coworkers as chemical vaccines to immunize animals and obtain immune sera that were employed for serum therapy in cases of plague. Later, Lustig and his pupils Galeotti and G. Polverini were invited to India to apply the results of their research. In 1897 and 1898 they were in Bombay, where they made epidemiological observations on plague and used a serum prepared in the Laboratory of General Pathology at Florence to treat a considerable number of plague victims. Having verified the efficacy of the serum, they started prophylactic vaccination with nucleoproteids and created in Bombay a laboratory for the preparation of nucleoproteids and antiplague sera. This activity is documented in numerous papers by Lustig and his co-workers, which were published in Italian, English, and German journals from 1897 to 1903. In the Italian medical journal Morgagni, Lustig published “I metodi razionali di immunizzazione per mezzo di sostanze chimicamente estratte dai microrganismi patogeni” (1903), in which the premises for future developments of both bacteriological chemistry and immunology are clearly seen.

In 1901 Lustig published Trattato di patologia generate, which went through eight editions. Starting with the third edition he had the collaboration of his pupils G. Galeotti, P. Rondoni, and G. Guerrini. While general pathology had until then been considered as the propaedeutic part of morbid anatomy, in that book Lustig and his collaborators clearly indicated the new dimension of this discipline, including in it immunology and physiopathology. This extension proved to be essential for a complete understanding of fundamental pathogenetic mechanisms.

In 1913, with several collaborators, Lustig published Le malattie infettive dell’uomo e degli animali In 1931, in collaboration with G. C. Rovida and G.Ferraloro, he wrote Fisiopatologia e clinica dei gas da combattimento, which he dedicated “to the memory of the eight thousand Italian soldiers who died in World War I following the first gas attack on the Austrian front”

Later, Lustig’s interest turned more and more to social medicine and hygiene: this is attested by his many papers on combating malaria, tuberculosis, and tumors.


Lustig’s writings include “Studi sul colera asiatico,” in Resoconto sanitario dello Spedale civile di Trieste (1886); “Ueber die Aetiologie des endemischen Kropfes,” in Verhandlungen des Internationalen Kongresses für Medizin (1890); Diagnostik der Bakterien des Wassers (Jena, 1893); “Risultati delle ricerche fatte in India negli animali e neiruomo intorno alia vaccinazione preventiva contro la peste bubbonica,“in Pubblkazioni del R. Istituto di studi superiori …in Flrenze (1897); “Versuche mit Pestsehutzimpfungen bei Thieren,” in Deutsche medizinische Wochenschrift, 23 (1897), 227, written with G. Galeotti; Trattato dl patologia generate(Milan, 1901); “I metodi razionali di immunizzazione per mezzo di sostanze chimicamente estratte dai microrganismi patogeni,”Morgagni,45 (1903),21“UeberBakteriennukleoproteide,” in W. Kolle and A. von Wassermann, eds.,Handbuch der pathogenen Mikroorganismen, II (Jena, 1913), 1362; sections of Le malattie infettwe dell’uomo e degli animali (Milan, 1913); and Fisiopatohgia e clinka dei gas da combattimento (Milan, 1931), written with G. C. Rovidaand G. Ferraloro.

Giovanni Favilli