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Volume 28, 1895
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Art. XLI.—Animal and Vegetable Parasites associated with the Production of Neoplasms in Cattle and Sheep.

[Read before the Wellington Philosophical Society, 17th July, 1895.]

I did not expect to be called upon to address such a learned body as the members of the Philosophical Society in this colony. When I left Tasmania I merely put up a few preparations to show Sir James Hector the progress I have made since he visited my laboratory in Hobart in October, 1893. Of course you are all aware that tuberculosis is the disease that we are led to believe is dangerous above all others in consuming the flesh of animals affected by it. During the early part of my professional career I was quite satisfied to accept the testimony of what was considered to be reliable investigation; but when Dr. Creed, of Sydney, New South Wales, so warmly took up the subject of tuberculosis in rabbits, in 1883, and by his influence Mr. Anthony Willows, M.R.C.V.S., was despatched to Tasmania to investigate the disease in that colony, I was enabled to see what Mr. Willows pronounced to be tuberculosis, scrofula, cancer, &c. My experience in the Old Country twenty years before enabled me to pronounce an adverse opinion at the time, and, having since struck out a line of investigation for myself on this important subject, I find that no one has yet demonstrated the existence of tuberculosis in wild rabbits, as the disease so frequently alluded to is the well-known Coccidium oviformœ. Then, the “scrofula” in cattle as reported by Mr. Willows proves to be the now well-known actinomycosis; and I am glad to say no case of tuberculosis has yet been found in Tasmania, notwithstanding the alarming report circulated by the New South Wales Stock Department in 1884. I have spent eighteen years in Tasmania, and have taken every opportunity to find tuberculosis in cattle in that colony, but up to the present time I have not succeeded. It has always occurred to me, Why should tuberculosis be so prevalent in these colonies (I mean in Australasia) as is reported? There must be something wrong somewhere; so, still endeavouring to solve the mystery, I obtained permission and assistance from Mr. P. R. Gordon to visit Queensland in 1893, and went on to several stations where cattle were not knocked about, as would have been the case if I had only made examinations at boiling-down establishments. After making over

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seventy post mortems in 1893, I felt convinced that tuberculosis could be easily demonstrated in some cases, but yet could not understand why it should appear to be preceded by an animal parasite—viz., Spiroptera reticulata. The photographs and specimens which I exhibit will show the nature of the tumours, of the size of a pea to the size of a large cocoanut, in which is enclosed the worm which produces the lesions referred to.

Of the life-history of these parasites I am unable to give any account, except that they are never found until an animal has passed at least one summer of its existence on the pastures, nor am I able to explain the way in which they gain entrance to the body; but it would appear that they are probably lodged in the connective tissue by means of the circulation, as the embryos are seen free in the tissue. On the other hand, if the adult female should attach itself from without, it could easily penetrate the fauces and gain entrance to the connective tissue, gliding down the neck to the brisket, where they are most commonly found, always lying between groups of muscles, and as low down as the stifle-joint. Sometimes very large tumours are found at that point

I issued a report to the Queensland Government pointing out the association of the animal and vegetable parasite existing in the same tumour, and in my opinion the Spiroptera reticulata caused much of the mischief done (a primary lesion). At the same time I prepared and sent to Dr. M. Armand Ruffer a section of the tumours, and in December following I received a letter confirming the observation made by me. This letter is appended hereto.

In a letter signed “S. Bradbury,” in the Live-stock Journal, New South Wales, it is suggested that, if the statement made by me were true, then 50 per cent. of cattle must be affected with tuberculosis; also, that such a statement, if unchallenged, would damage the stock interests of the colony. In the meantime the Queensland Government had requested me to undertake another journey and further, investigate the disease, and I carefully noted that sixty-three out of seventy-seven cattle submitted to me for examination harboured Spiroptera reticulata, or 80 per cent. instead of 50 per cent.: my 1894 examination thus confirming more fully the statements of the previous year. By the specimens in the tube you will observe every stage of degeneration. Under the microscopes are sections of the tumours showing tubercle bacilli, while the phagosites are seen destroying and digesting the Spiroptera. Unless one studies this subject closely it seems almost incredible that the cells in our bodies could attack and destroy an animal so large as a worm; nevertheless it is a fact, and this is the “zooparastic tuber-

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culosis” of Metchnikoff. It is also very clearly seen in the lungs of sheep and in the intestines as small knobs. When we find a large number of encysted parasites of this kind it is easy to see how readily one can mistake such cases for tuberculosis, especially when no microscopic examination is made, as in sheep they cannot be seen without a lens of some kind.

Cancer is the next subject to command attention. This is said to be due to the consumption of animal food affected with cancer. For my own part, I have no proof of this, but I can show you specimens of the latest form of cancer-parasites in man, and also certain intracellular bodies in cattle that bear a striking resemblance to those bodies as described by Ruffer, Walker, Fox, and others; but, until we have proof of the statements made concerning cancerous meat, I would say, keep a contented mind until proof is obtained.

In order to prove what I have said, we will now examine the preparations, under the microscopes, of cancer, actinomycosis, tuberculosis, Spiroptera reticulata, and also a preparation by Dr. Whittell, of Adelaide, of actinomycosis and Spiroptera reticulata in the same tumour, giving further proof of another vegetable parasite finding a nidus in the same tumour.

5, York Terrace, Regent's Park, N.W., London, 8th December, 1893.

Dear Mr. Park,—

I was very glad to hear from you again, and to have an account of your extremely interesting observations. I am also greatly obliged to you for the thirteen beautiful sections you have sent me, which I have examined with the greatest interest.

There is not a doubt that these preparations represent sections through some kind of new growth, which form cysts containing in their interior a peculiar-looking worm, which resembles marvellously and is probably identical with the Spiroptera reticulata.

In some of the sections one could also see large giant cells, which were evidently filled with all kinds of débris, which were probably bits of embryos, or even of adult worms, which these giant cells had taken into their interior, killed, and digested. The worms varied to a great extent, and, in some, one could see the process of the formation of embryos, &c.

I was greatly interested also in some of the sections which showed the Spiroptera as well as the tubercle bacilli at the periphery.

I must say that this discovery of yours strikes me as being entirely new, and one which might prove useful in elucidating various pathological problems.

It strikes me as exceedingly probable that the Spiroptera penetrates first, and then, through the irritation which it produces, and through its altering of the animal's resistance, it gives the tubercle bacillus a chance to invade the body and thrive: but I do hope that you and your assistants will work out this most interesting problem.

I was also greatly interested in the notes of cattle slaughtered by you during the year 1893 in Queensland. There can be no doubt from your list that true tubercle must be exceedingly rare, and that actinomycosis and diseases due to worms, Spiroptera, &c., must be equally common. I confess I should have been greatly astonished had tubercle been as fre-

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quent as it is generally said to be, for the conditions which appear to favour the occurrence of tubercle seem to be absent in your country.

You must not be disappointed if the veterinarians pooh-pooh your observations. It is the best proof that you can have that they are really original; and I think you are doing good service by showing the occurrence of two parasites belonging to two kingdoms in one and the same animal, and even in one and the same tumour.

I hope that if you have any material to spare you will send us some over, as now that the British Institute of Preventive Medicine is in working-order I shall be able to get the pathological anatomy worked out in London.

Yours very truly,


M. Armand Ruffer.