Volume 27, Number 3—March 2021
Etymologia: Histoplasma capsulatum
Histoplasma capsulatum [hĭs′tə-plăz′mə kăp′sə-lā′təm]
In 1905, Samuel Taylor Darling serendipitously identified a protozoan-like microorganism in an autopsy specimen while trying to understand malaria, which was prevalent during the construction of the Panama Canal. He named this microorganism Histoplasma capsulatum because it invaded the cytoplasm (plasma) of histiocyte-like cells (Histo) and had a refractive halo mimicking a capsule (capsulatum), a misnomer (Figure).
Histoplasma capsulatum, a dimorphic fungus, now belongs to Kingdom Fungi and causes histoplasmosis (Darling’s disease) through inhalation of spores found in soil and bird droppings. The fungus thrives in the central and eastern parts of United States, especially around the Ohio and Mississippi River valleys, and in South America, Africa, Asia, and Australia. Three varieties exist globally: H. capsulatum var. capsulatum, H. capsulatum var. duboisii, and H. capsulatum var. farciminosum.
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Original Publication Date: February 10, 2021