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Alfonso Splendore

Born  1871
Died  1953

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Italian physician, born April 25, 1871, Fagnano Castello, in the province of Cosenza, southern Italy, died April 30, 1953, in his house in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Biography of Alfonso Splendore

This biography was submitted by Fausto Labruto:

Alfonso Splendore was born in Fagnano Castello, in the province of Cosenza, southern Italy, on April 25, 1871, to Luigi Splendore and Gaetana Gallo. His brother, Achille was a well known researcher in tobacco-culture.

Splendore studied in Cosenza, Naples and Rome, where he obtained his medical doctorate on July 24, 1897, defending a thesis on ”how vegetal and animal, mono- and pluricellular organisms defend themselves from detrimental agents. He continued to work in Rome at the Institute of Hygiene with his teachers Angelo Celli (1857-1914), Claudio Fermi (born 1862) and Giovanni Battista Grassi (1854-1925).

In 1899, fascinated by tropical pathologies, he moved to Brazil, where he worked as a physician and could deepen his studies on tropical medicine. In order to practice medicine he obtained an habilitation from Rio de Janeiro medical faculty, which, exceptionally, did not ask to Splendore to undergo admission exams, considering the importance of his previous work.

In Sao Paulo he worked with Professor Adolfo Lutz (1855-1940) of the Bacteriological Institute, publishing numerous papers. There he founded the laboratory of the Umberto I Hospital and later became director of the laboratory at the Portuguese Charity Hospital. In this period he produced numerous studies, many of which were later reported in international conferences, on Pebrines, Sporothricosis, Toxoplasmosis, Blastomycosis, Buba, Miasis and Leishmaniosis.

In 1907 he presented to the Brazilian Medical Congress of Sao Paulo the first human case of Sporothricosis in Brazil, which he already observed in 1902 with Lutz. Later he described an alternative infectious agent for this disease: Sporotricum asteroides. In 1908 he discovered that another South American fly Sarcophaga lambens, was responsible for transmitting miasis. In the same year he observed a deadly epizoosis among rabbits of his laboratory and was able to isolate and study the pathogen: In July of the same year he presented the results of this study to the Scientific Society in Sao Paulo, defining the pathogen as ”a new parasitic protozoon that causes in rabbits a disease that shows similarity with human Kalaazar”.

His was the first description of Toxoplasmosis and this diseases was meant to be widely studied in the future. But he appeared to understand the importance of this discovery from the beginning: at the first International Congress of Comparative Pathology, in Paris, 1912, he said: ”… we should not be surprised if this disease would be observed in humans in the future… it is demonstrated by our research and our observations”. Several years later, in accordance with his prevision, it was demonstrated that a very high percentage of the human population is infected by toxoplasmosis in a not evident way and that, infection acquired by pregnant women can cause foetal death, miscarriage and malformations.

After these works, others followed on South American Blastomycosis. He first described this type of mycosis observed in Brazil, characterizing its manifestation in the oral cavity, showing that the pathogen is a fungus, Zimonema brasiliense. Today, the pathogen responsible for South American blastomycosis (also known as Lutz – Splendore – Almeida disease, is known as Paracoccidioides brasiliense. With his work he participated in the proceedings of the VI Brazilian Congress of Medicine in San Paulo in 1907 and the IV Latin American Medical Congress in 1909 in Rio de Janeiro.

In 1911, for the first time, he described a new clinical presentation of Leishmaniosis in patients coming from an area between San Paulo state and Mato Grosso. This particular form of Leishmaniosis, beside the typical cutaneous button like-lesions, showed granulo-ulcerative vegetations on mouth and nose.

In 1912 Splendore came back to Italy. From that year and for the whole time he spent in Italy he was Professor of bacteriology at the Universities of Rome and Parma, teaching protozoology and tropical Microbiology at the faculty of Medicine. He published many papers and participated to meetings, particularly the VII International Congress of Dermatology and Syphilography in Rome, and the first International Congress of Comparative Pathology in Paris, in 1912, and the International Medical Congress in London, 1913.

During the first world war, an invasion of rodents in Puglia, southern Italy, almost destroyed the crop. The ministry for agriculture appointed Professor Splendore to study the causes and possible solutions for this problem. Splendore noticed that many rodents were dead in the fields and many others were eating on the carcasses. He soon discovered that the mortality of the rodents was due to a pathogen, which he denominated Bacterium Pitymysi. He captured hundreds of rodents and infected them in the laboratory with Bacterium Pitymysi, before setting them free again in the fields. The disease easily spread and caused the death of the rodents. By doing this Splendore soon obtained the solution of the problem. In 1920 he published a work on those parasites, in which he personally took care of the graphic depictions. In the same year he moved back to Sao Paulo, where he stayed until his death.

Splendore was repeatedly invited to come back to Italy to teach bacteriology at the University of Bologna, but he preferred Brazil. His working inspiration was slowed by the sudden and sorrowful death of his son Eduardo, socio-political events in Brazil and his brother Achille’s death. He was one of the most respected and admired in the Italian community of Sao Paulo. In his latest years he had a strong desire to visiting again his fatherland and his friends back in Italy, but the Second World War and his physical state did not allow the trip. On April 30, 1953 he died in his house in Sao Paulo, among his many fine Italian furniture's and memories of his land. In Sao Paulo a street is entitled to him: ”Rua Dr. Alfonso Splendore, Medico”.

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