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Volume 22, Number 6—June 2016
Etymologia

Etymologia: Neisseria

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Neisseria [ni-seʹre-ə]

Thumbnail of A 3-dimensional computer-generated image of drug-resistant Neisseria gonorrhoeae diplococcal bacteria. Source: Public Health Image Library.

. A 3-dimensional computer-generated image of drug-resistant Neisseria gonorrhoeae diplococcal bacteria. Source: Public Health Image Library.

A gram-negative, non-motile diplococcal bacterium, Neisseria (Figure) is named after Albert Ludwig Sigesmund Neisser, a German physician who discovered Neisseria gonorrhoeae in 1879.

Gonorrhea comes from the Greek gonos, meaning “seed,” and rhoe, “flow. The disease caused by this bacterium was known as “gonorrhea” because early physicians incorrectly thought the purulent discharge was semen. As early as 1719, gonorrhea was referred to as “the clap,” although theories for why it was called this vary. It may refer to the old French term clapier, “brothel,” a place where the disease spread easily. Another theory refers to preantibiotic days when the infection was treated by slapping the penis against a board, or clapping it between two boards to force out infected discharge.

N. gonorrhoeae is 1 of only 2 Neisseria species that is pathogenic to humans. The second, N. meningitidis, causes outbreaks of meningitis and septicemia. It was isolated by Anton Weichselbaum in 1887 and designated as Diplococcus intracellularis meningitidis.

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References

  1. Boskey  E. Gonorrhea: what is it, and why is it called the clap? About Health [cited 2016 Apr 11]. http://std.about.com/od/bacterialstds/a/gonoverview.htm
  2. Harper  D. Gonorrhea. Online etymology dictionary [cited 2016 Apr 8]. http://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Neisseria+gonorrhoeae
  3. Mosby’s Medical Dictionary. 8th ed. Neisseria gonorrhoeae [cited 2016 Apr 8]. http://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Neisseria+gonorrhoeae
  4. Stephens  DS. Biology and pathogenesis of the evolutionarily successful, obligate human bacterium Neisseria meningitidis. Vaccine. 2009;Suppl2:B717 . DOIPubMed

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Cite This Article

DOI: 10.3201/eid2206.et2206

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Table of Contents – Volume 22, Number 6—June 2016

Page created: May 24, 2016
Page updated: May 24, 2016
Page reviewed: May 24, 2016
The conclusions, findings, and opinions expressed by authors contributing to this journal do not necessarily reflect the official position of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Public Health Service, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or the authors' affiliated institutions. Use of trade names is for identification only and does not imply endorsement by any of the groups named above.
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