On the day that Great Britain declared war on Germany in 1914, the Irish physician and bacteriologist Adrian Stokes travelled to London to volunteer. One week later he left for France with the first British troops as an officer with the Royal Army Medical Corps. He spent most of the First World War attached to No. 1 Mobile Bacteriological Laboratory at the Remy Siding British-Canadian field hospital in Flanders. In April 1916, he was confronted with an outbreak of trench jaundice, also known as epidemic jaundice (Weil’s disease). Conditions in the trenches contributed to the hundred cases identified by Stokes in a short period. In 1917, he was the first to publish (in The Lancet) the finding that the bacterium Spirochaeta icterohaemorrhagiae, the causative agent of epidemic jaundice, could be isolated from the kidneys of rats. A subsequent rat control campaign in the trenches successfully curbed the disease.
Conflict of interest and financial support: none declared.