For the purposes of this address, tropical diseases are broadly defined as animal diseases and toxicoses that were unknown to European settlers and European-trained veterinarians when they came to South Africa. However, there is good evidence that indigenous pastoralist Khoi-Khoi and Nguni people recognised and sought to manage some of these diseases and exploit identified poisons long before the arrival of European colonists.
The involvement of Sir Arnold Theiler, founder of Onderstepoort, in research and development in tropical diseases is so manifold that only the absolute highlights will be dealt with. It kicked off with co-developing the first safe and effective vaccine for rinderpest in 1896. Then followed the elucidation of the aetiology (Theileria parva) and epidemiology of East Coast fever. The next triumph was the discovery of the taxonomically unusual, erythrocytic parasite Anaplasma and the development of an effective blood vaccine. Although best known for his lamsiekte (botulism) research, Theiler’s involvement was somewhat controversial, as will be elucidated in the address
Abstract of a keynote presentation delivered at the 44th International Congress of the World Association for the History of Veterinary Medicine held from the 27-29 of February 2020 at The Farm Inn Hotel and Conference Centre, Pretoria, South Africa