Dr Wilhelm Neitz
(1906 - 1979)
Dr Wilhelm Neitz
Wilhelm Otto Daniel Martin Neitz was born in Potgietersrus (now Mokopane), South Africa, on 17 November 1906, the son of a Lutheran pastor. He studied at the Faculty of Veterinary Science, University of Pretoria, and was awarded a BVSc in 1929 and a DVSc in 1945. His research career at the Onderstepoort Veterinary Institute spanned 41 years (1930-1971). He was part-time professor of protozoology and virology at the Faculty of Veterinary Science, UP during 1948–1957 and part time professor of protozoology during 1958–1968. He was visiting professor at the Freie Universität, Berlin, during the 1960’s and at the Universidade Federale do Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, from 1972 to 1979. He died in Pretoria, South Africa, on 18 August 1979.
Dr Neitz was President of the South African Biological Society in 1944. He was a member of the FAO/OIE Expert Panel on Tick-borne Diseases in 1956, and convener of the discussion on ovine and caprine rickettsial diseases at 1968 OIE meeting, Paris. Dr Neitz was editor of the Onderstepoort Journal of Veterinary Research from 1962 to 1969.
As research officer at Onderstepoort, Dr Neitz identified plurality of strains of the bluetongue virus, thus explaining immunological failures. This formed the scientific basis of the current polyvalent live vaccine. Whilst investigating various forms of tick toxicoses, he discovered that the enigmatic disease of calves known as sweating sickness is caused by bite of Hyalomma truncatum ticks. Dr Neitz was internationally recognised as a research expert on theileriosis, inter alia on account of the identification and description of Theileria parva lawencei, the cause of “buffalo disease/corridor disease”, and pioneering studies on theileriosis in antelopes. He discovered the first chemotherapeutic cure for heartwater (ehrlichiosis/cowdriosis) of ruminants in the form of sulphonamides, the first use of this drug against rickettsial infections of animals and humans. He subsequently developed the infection and cure method of immunisation against heartwater. Dr Neitz discovered that development of macroschizonts of Theileria parva parva is suppressed by tetracyclines, which led other researchers to develop the infection and cure method of immunisation against East Coast fever.
Homage and Distinctions:
Dr Neitz was awarded the following awards:
1954 - Senior Captain Scott Medal of the South African Biological Society
1957 - “Havenga-prys vir Geneeskunde” of the “Suid-Afrikaanse Akademie vir Wetenskap en Kuns”
1963 - Dr Med Vet honoris causa by the Tierärztliche Hochschule, Hannover, Germany
1970 - South Africa Medal of the South African Association for the Advancement of Science
1971 - Gold Medal of the South African Veterinary Association
1975 - Elsdon-Dew Medal of the Parasitological Society of Southern Africa.
Dr Neitz was author or co-author of 133 scientific publications up to 1971 – no published reference list is available. Among his major publications are:
1939: Die Wirkung von Uleron auf das Herzwasser (Rickettsia ruminantium) der Schafe. Berliner und Münchner tierärztliche Wochenschrift 1939: 134 – 140
1943: Aureomycin in Theileria parva infection. Nature, London 171: 34
1948: Immunological studies on bluetongue in sheep. Onderstepoort Journal of Veterinary Science and Animal Industry 22: 93 – 136
1954: Hyalomma transiens Schulze: A vector of sweating sickness. Journal of the South African Veterinary Medical Association 25: 19 – 20
1955: Corridor disease: A fatal form of bovine theileriosis encountered in Zululand. Bulletin of Epizootic Diseases of Africa 3: 121 – 123
1956: A consolidation of our knowledge of the transmission of tick-borne diseases. Onderstepoort Journal of Veterinary Research 27: 115 – 163
1957: Theileriosis, Gonderiosis and Cytauxzoonosis: A review. Onderstepoort Journal of Veterinary Research 27: 275 – 430
1965: A check list and host list of the zoonoses occurring in mammals and birds in South and South West Africa. Onderstepoort Journal of Veterinary Research 32: 189 – 374
Bigalke, R.D. 1980. In Memoriam: Prof Dr W. O. Neitz. Journal of the South African Veterinary Association 51: 125 – 126.