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Marcel Baltazard

Dr. Marcel Baltazard (1907-1971) graduated from the Medical School of Paris in 1931. The Frenchman then went to Morocco at the invitation of George Blanc, founder of the Pasteur Institute of Casablanca, and completed his epidemiology on the epidemiology of Bilharziasis in Morocco. After finishing his thesis, he continued his research on typhoid, plague and recurrent fevers in Morocco. In 1935, he was awarded the Desportes Prize from the Medical Academy of France and in 1937, together with Georges Blanc, they invented a vaccine against typhoid out of fleas’ excess parts.

He served as head of the Italian, French and German Medical Council from1942 until1945.

On his return from Morocco in 1945, Marcel Baltazard was sent to Iran for a short mission on behalf of Pasteur Institute of Paris. After the contract between the Pasteur Institute of Paris and Iran regarding development of activities, Baltazard was appointed the third French General Director of Pasteur Institute of Iran in 1946. He served in this position for twelve years, modifying the scientific and engineering structures of the institute.

Moreover, he organized the mass vaccination against pox and tuberculosis and established a rehabilitation center for patients with leprosy. However, what brought him global fame was his research on plague and rabies. His arrival in Iran was simultaneous with the third plague outbreak in Iran and owing to his past experience in plague control in Morocco, Dr. Baltazard and his Iranian colleagues conducted extensive research regarding plague control in the west of Iran and founded the Research Center of Pasteur Institute of Iran in the village of Akanlu.

His research revealed that rodents with high resistance to this infection caused the persistence of plague in Kurdistan; generally, Baltazard's research about plague in Iran made Pasteur Institute of Iran, its epidemiology department and the Akanlu center one of the main scientific centers for this disease worldwide.

Baltazard also continued his research activities in other countries such as Brazil, Peru, Burma, and Mauritania.

Dr. Baltazard was appointed a WHO expert in rabies (1950) and plague (1954). He suggested a protocol to use purified anti-rabies serum titled "hyper immune serum" which facilitated the use of anti-rabies serum around the world. In 1954, Dr. Baltazard was awarded the Bellion prize on behalf of the academy in France. In 1956, he was also appointed a member of the WHO expert committee on plague.

In 1958 Baltazard left Iran but he continued his collaboration with Iran as high councilor of the Director of Pasteur Institute of Iran (Dr. Mehdi Ghodsi) till 1966.

After his return to France, he founded the epidemiology department at the Pasteur Institute of Paris and served in several positions, such as the head of the new departments of epidemiologic medical services, infectious diseases, research and education. He also managed the educational epidemiologic courses during this time.

Dr. Marcel Baltazard passed away in Paris in 1971.

Figure 12: Dr. Marcel Baltazard, 1960, Akanlu.

Yunos Karimi

Dr. Yunos Karimi, (1929-1998), born in Dargaz, finished his medical education at Tehran University of Medical Sciences. After getting his degree in infectious diseases and tropical medicine, he completed microbiology and immunology courses at the Pasteur Institute of Paris. He served as the head of the Epidemiology Department at Pasteur Institute of Iran for many years while spending twenty-five years researching different diseases (plague in particular) in Kurdistan and Azerbaijan.

He travelled to countries such as Brazil, Zaire, and Tanzania. In 1956, Dr. Karimi discovered a new type of Borrelia which he named Borrelia baltazardi. He also detected the wild foci of this disease using serum samples from foxes.

In 1978 a new focus of plague in the Sarab region in eastern Azerbaijan was reported by Dr. Karimi and his colleagues; in 1981 he diagnosed the first human case of glandular tularemia in Iran.

He published several international articles about plague and his book “Plague and its Epidemiology” was published by Pasteur Institute of Iran in 1977. This book illustrated the latest findings about plague around the world and in Iran and included valuable information about the specific types of rodents responsible for dissemination of human plague in Iran.

Of his achievements, one must mention the detection of a persisting form of plague in the burrows of rodents expired from plague. Such a finding attracted global attention. This phenomenon was named “ground plague” or “buried plague”, and explained the secret behind the persistence of this disease for years in a region.

Figure 13: from right to left: Dr. Mansour Shamsa, Dr. Yunos Karimi, the educational workshop of WHO on plague, 1972, Akanlu.

Mahmud Bahmanyar

Dr. Mahmud Bahmanyar (1919- 2007) was a veterinarian hired by Pasteur Institute of Iran in 1946, where he, under Dr. Ghodsi's supervision, started his activity in the rabies department. His activities were based upon his personal interest and the hot topics of the day, those being rabies and plague. He became the head of the rabies department of Pasteur Institute of Iran in 1956. He completed the plague epidemiology course at California University in one year.

He continued his activity as a researcher in plague in countries such as India, Cambodia, Burma (Myanmar), Indonesia , Vietnam, Yemen and Brazil. Due to his extensive research on plague, his activity in the field of rabies was less significant.

Dr. Bahmanyar completed several educational and research courses at the Pasteur Institute of Paris and other international centers during these years and was a member of the expert committee on plague and rabies at WHO; he wrote the WHO plague guidelines in 1975 . He retired in 1980.

Figure 14: Dr. Mahmud Bahmanyar and Dr. Marcel Baltazard, 1967, plague control mission in Brazil

Mansour Shamsa

Dr. Mansour Shamsa was born in 1922 and started his activity at Pasteur Institute of Iran in 1949. He was formally employed as a physician and epidemiologist at the institute in 1955. Also in 1955 he completed complementary courses on health at the Pasteur Institute of France and continued his research on recurrent fever in Afghanistan. In 1968, he was appointed head of the epidemiology department and plague research team. In 1969 he contributed to plague control in Indonesia on behalf of WHO.

Dr. Shamsa also took part in a malaria eradication program as an epidemiology consultant in Pakistan. He was then working, as the general director of Pasteur Institute of Iran. He retired in 1975.It is noteworthy to mention that he is still alive.

Figure 15: Dr. Mansour Shamsa, in the middle of the photo, Akanlu, 1964.

Bahmanyar’s research is still being continued in Indonesia. Baltazard strongly encouraged Bahmanyar to follow his activities and wrote him the following letter in 1957: "Our current purpose, particularly in those spots of the world which are almost uninhabitable, is definitely one of the most beautiful jobs of the world. I can proudly declare that you bring honor to me when I find a letter on my desk explaining that you have tested 6500 rodents and thousands of fleas for only one positive sample of plague!” In December of the same year, Dr. Baltazard made a request to WHO in Geneva to appoint Bahmanyar as a member of plague expert committee: "My Iranian colleague has undertaken a great responsibility in my absence which is quite admirable and I believe that his active presence as a plague expert is now necessary; he has completed a great part of the research conducted in India and all the research activities in Indonesia." The complete studies about tularemia by Dr. Mansur Shamsa and his colleagues in 1969 and 1970 led to the first report of the disease in the domestic livestock and wildlife in western, northern and eastern Iran. In this study, more than 4500 wild mammals, and 200 sheep and cows were evaluated for any trace of tularemia in 47 locations in the country. This study greatly contributed to the identification of wild mammals as the reservoir for a lot of infectious zoonotic disease in Iran

Biuk Seyyedian

Dr. Biuk Seyyedian was born in 1919 in Tabriz. He graduated in veterinary medicine in 1941 and finished his advanced studies in France and England. Apart from his extensive studies on plague in Iran, Dr. Seyyedian conducted significant other research in Iraq, Turkey, and Syria. In 1959, he published the results of his studies on plague in the Middle East in a journal affiliated with WHO [43]. Biuk Seyyedian retired in 1978.

Figure 16: Baltazard and Seyyedian in a mission about plague in Marivan, 1960.

Rasoul Purnaki

Dr. Rasoul Purnaki (1920-2006) was born in Khoy city and graduated from the School of Veterinary Medicine at Tehran University in 1945. He worked as head of the epidemiology laboratory in the field of plague until1962. He was a member of many research teams at Pasteur Institute of Iran in Akanlu and published articles on plague [44-45].

He also worked as head of the virology department and in 1678 he became the general director of Pasteur Institute of Iran.

Figure 17: Dr. Pournaki (on the right), 1952, Kurdistan, Iran, isolating fleas from the rodents.

Shamsoddin Mofidi

Dr. Shamsoddin Mofidi was born in 1921 in Rasht city. He graduated in medicine in 1945 and became a parasitologist. He left Iran for America some years later and became a specialist in public health. He then continued his studies in England, France, Tunisia, Aljazeera, and Morocco. In 1959 he became a chairman of parasitology at the School of Medicine at Tehran University of Medical Sciences and became the head of the School of Public Health in 1966. He became Minister of Science in 1978.

Dr. Mofidi was one of the most celebrated researchers in health affairs. He cooperated closely with Pasteur Institute of Iran in the field of plague in the identification of fleas.

Figure 18: from left to right: Shamsoddin Mofidi, Biuk Seyyedian, Mansur Shamsa, Marcel Baltazard, Professor Rene Legroux, 1988

Mirhoushang Majd teymouri

Dr. Mirhoushang Majd Teymouri, a pediatrician, was born in 1933. He joined Pasteur Institute of Iran in 1953, where guided several missions on plague and tularemia. He has published several articles in the field of plague[41].

Mostafa Habibi

Dr. Mostafa Habibi Golpaygani (1904-1948) was born in Tehran and went to France in 1928. He graduated in medicine from the School of Medicine in Paris and continued his studies in pathology. He returned to Iran in 1936 and started his career as a pathologist at Pasteur Institute of Iran. In 1941 he became the first full-time professor at the Tehran School of Medicine. He founded the first medical journal of Tehran University of Medical Sciences and founded the high schools of health in Mashhad (1941), Shiraz and Isfahan (1946). These were followed by the establishment of medical schools in these cities. In addition to the aforementioned activities, he published some medical text books and articles in pathology and endemic diseases.

Dr. Habibi was an accompanying member of the plague research teams of Pasteur Institute of Iran and designed and executed pathological activities in these missions. There are certain articles by him in Akanlu center [47-48].

Abdulrahman Farhang Azad

Dr. Abdulrahman Farhang Azad received his doctorate of pharmacy from Tehran University and his PhD from Johns Hopkins University in the USA. He studied extensively Iranian fauna of flea [23, 49], rodents [50] and small mammals [51] and cooperated with Pasteur Institute of Iran and the Akanlu Research Center in this regard. Farhang Azad has cooperated in the first study of Tularemia in wildlife and livestock in Iran [35, 52].

Mirza Agha Eftekhari

Dr. Mirza Agha Eftekhari was a hematology and military scientific doctorate in Pasteur Institute of Iran and he was for many years director of the plague laboratory .He was responsible for much research and many services.

Figure 19: Dr. Bahmanyar, Dr. Pouranki, Dr. Seyyedian, Guest, Dr. Baltazard, Dr. Eftekhari, Dr. Mostashfi, Pasteur Institute of Iran, 1959.

Mousa Hakimi

Mousa Hakimi, born in 1919 in Zanjan, was hired in 1953 at Pasteur Institute of Iran. Mr. Hakimi worked for many years as a full-time employee of the laboratory at the Pasteur Institute in the Akanlu research center and accompanied plague research teams. He died in the same center.

Pezeshkpour Mostashfi

Dr. Pezeshkpour Mostashfi was born in 1925 in Tehran. He received a doctoral degree in biology from the University of Geneva in 1953. Coming back Iran, Mostashfi began his work at Pasteur Institute of Iran.

Dr. Mostashfi, along with his colleagues, in addition to studying the plague distribution, succeeded in finding several species resistant to plague. Genetic studies of resistant and sensitive rats with plague have since started in Iran, headed by Dr. Mostashfi.

Dr. Mostashfi was hired at Tehran University in 1957. He established genetic courses in College of Sciences of Tehran University and continued his research in population genetic sand chromosomal recognition in several types of desert rodents in Iran. He is the founder of Iran's Association of Genetics.

Mehdi Asmar

Dr. Mehdi Asmar was born in Qazvin, in northern Iran, in 1943.He started at the Pasteur Institute after receiving his master's degree in medical entomology from Tehran University.

Much of his research was on plague epidemiology and relapsing fever. Dr. Asmar continued to study in the Akanlu Research Center plague epizootics in Kurdistan and Hamadan provinces. He also performed an investigative plan of susceptibility testing of different strains of plague native to Iran to antibiotics and effectiveness of systemic poisons to control desert rodents' fleas [57].In 1976, while doing research in the desert around Ardebil, he managed to isolate plague microbes from Meriones persicus rodents and presented the results of his research at a meeting of plague experts of the WHO in the former Soviet Union. In 1981 he successfully defended his PhD thesis in parasitology and medical entomology comparing Meriones persicus in the Tello area (Tehran), as the animals susceptible to plague, and Meriones persicus in the Akanlu area as animals resistant to plague. He focused on the morphological and ecological characteristics and internal coordinates including genetic markers, cytogenetics and gut bacterial flora. He was appointed head of the Laboratory of Epidemiology that same year and later became the director of the epidemiology department. One of his plans at the Akanlu Research Center was to hold a plague workshop. Representatives of medical universities throughout Iran participated for two weeks. He became director of the Department of Parasitology in 1985 and later served as a research deputy at Pasteur Institute of Iran. Dr. Asmar retired in 2008.

Aref Amirkhani

Dr. Aref Amirkhani (born in 1949) was a veterinarian and epidemiologist who joined the Pasteur Institute in1978. His titles included expert, head of laboratory, head of the epidemiology sector and director of the Akanlu Research Center (1988). At times he also managed plague research. He retired in October 2010.

Histology of rodents (Merion Persicus) is one of his publications and it explains the histological principles of Merion Persicus which is the principal reservoir of plague in Iran.

Hassan Nekouei Dastjerdi

Mr. Hassan Nekouei Dastjerdi was born in Isfahan in 1952. In 1979 he started in the Department of Epidemiology at Pasteur Institute of Iran and was one of the experts who followed studies on plague after Iran’s revolution at the Akanlu Research Center. His research results in this regard have been published.

“Medical Rodentology”, a book he and Dr. Asmar wrote, was published by Pasteur Institute of Iran. The book describes the sanitary aspects regarding specific rodents.

Norayr Piazak

Dr. Norayr Piazak was born in 1952 in Kermanshah. Piazak received his bachelor's degree in biology from the Arak Science High School and his master’s and PhD in Medical Entomology from Tehran University of Medical Sciences. In April, 1978 he began his cooperation with Dr. Jean-Marie Klein in entomology at Pasteur Institute of Iran. Much of his scientific studies were on fleas and ticks in Iran, especially in Akanlu.

Dr. Piazak continued his cooperation with Dr. Asmar along with the late Dr. Younes Karimi in the epidemiology department, which resulted in a pictorial key of Iranian fleas. Dr. Piazak retired in 2010.

Sabar Farman Farmaian

Dr. Sabar Farman Farmaian was born in Tehran in 1912. His father, Abdul Hussein Mirza Farman Farmaian, dedicated the land for Pasteur Institute of Iran in Tehran. Farman Farmaian attended high school and university in France and Switzerland and received his medical degree from the University of Geneva and his PhD in the epidemiology of tropical diseases from London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. Farman Farmaian, after returning to Iran, took charge of monitoring health problems and later undertook extirpation and control of malaria. In 1951 he became Minister of Health in Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh’s government and later employed by the World Health Organization (WHO), where helped and implemented several health projects in African countries and subsequently led WHO malaria eradication and control programs in Southeast Asia.

Dr. Sabar Farman Farmaian was the director of Pasteur Institute of Iran from 1971 to 1977 and he consistently supported plague study programs in Akanlu.

Dr. Farman Farmaian passed away on May 19, 2006.

Figure 20: The World Health Organization meeting on plague in Akanlu research center; 1972, Dr. Sabar Farman Farmaian can be seen with hat and glasses in the middle of the picture.

Mohammad Hanifi

Mohammad Hanifi was born in the village of Aghbolagh Morshed near Bijar in 1936. With the outbreak of plague in the village of Aghbolagh Morshed, a large number of his relatives died. Dr. Baltazard listed some Aghbolagh citizens familiar with the area to perform field activities. Hanifi was in charge of finding rat nests and trapping them. His interest and perseverance resulted in him being hired at Pasteur Institute of Iran in 1959. During the years in which he served at Pasteur Institute of Iran, with the help and guidance of leaders in this field, and especially Dr. Misonne and Dr. Douglas M. Lay, along with his active participation in various missions, he become completely familiarized with the identification of wild rodents. He played an important role as an expert in the scientific progress in this country with tireless participation in desert operations, hunting foxes and other wild and semi-domesticated animals. The identification of the plague center in Sarab was one of the important tasks accomplished by him and his colleagues [59].

Hanifi retired in 1994.In 2012 he presented his documentation and samples collected over the years to Pasteur Institute of Iran. These items led to the setting up of a museum in his name at the Research Center for Emerging and Reemerging Infectious Diseases.

“The Plague Against the People” is a published collection of his memoirs during his service. His son Hamed Hanifi followed in his father’s footsteps for thirty years and retired in 2013. Mohammad Hanifi died in 2015.

Figure 21: Mohammad Hanifi and Hamed Hanifi on a mission near Aghbolagh, 30 kilometers from

Xavier Misonne

Dr. Xavier Misonne (1923-2007) was a Belgian zoologist who performed extensive research focused at the Akanlu Research Center from 1956 to 1960.The resulting book includes a chapter which describes the ecology and rodents in the Kurdistan region. The book analyzes the fauna of Aghbolagh Morshed(64).Misonne was the founder of rodentology science in Iran and helped significantly in the scientific identification of rodents as plague reservoirs in Iran [10].

Dr. Misonne wrote "Animal Geography of Mammals of Iran" in1959.A chapter of this book has been allocated to the analysis of fauna in the Aghbolagh Morshed area (30 kilometers from Akanlu). The translation and review of this book was done by Dr. Jamshid Darvish, Professor of Zoology at Ferdowsi University in Mashhad.

After Iran, Misonne continued his research as the World Health Organization’s expert in Syria, India, Turkey, Libya, Bolivia, Peru, Chile and Indonesia.

Xavier Misonne describes in his book works has done on wild rodents as “the first rodent hunted was this extraordinary Meriones, Meriones Persicus, with white belly, tall tail and a black tassel that I can bring them out from nest without biting, tall and curled gray mustache and black eye contours that shine as two pearls. After two weeks, I understood that I found only one type of Meriones in this region. After searching further in the region I found another, slightly different meriones; its tail was like a paintbrush similar to Meriones Gradovi, which I have seen in Azerbaijan in the Soviet Union, and which I have never seen in western museums. A little down in a valley there was another Meriones; Meriones Libycus, and its recognition was not hard because of its fawn tail. I took them from the nest cautiously so as not to transfer a flea to me and traced them with painting and markings on their heads. I soon understood that these small rodents have active social lives and with this life style plague transfers from one to another”.


Figure 22: right photo: (from left to right) Dr. Baltazard, Dr. Misonne and Dr. Seyyedian having breakfast in 1957. Left: Dr. Misonne, 1958, Akanlu Research Center.

In 2002 Misonne penned "From Kurdistan to Atacama’s Desert", a book about the scientific activities of his life.

Jean Marie Klein

Dr. Jean-Marie Klein was an entomologist who conducted a wide range of studies on fleas besides his studies on plague focused on Akanlu.

Dr. Klein, after leaving Iran, continued these studies in Vietnam and Cambodia.

Figure 23: from right: Dr. Jean-Marie Klein, Mahmood Damavandi (driver) and Dr. Younes Karimi, 1954, Akanlu Research Center

Henri Mollaret

Dr. Henri Mollaret was a French physician and biologist, born in 1923 in Paris. Dr. Mollaret came to Pasteur Institute of Iran in 1963 after years of studying plague in Africa. At the Plague Research Center in Akanlu his studied the survival of plague in soil. His studies showed that in the laboratory the bacillus of plague can survive in soil without losing its.

Mollaret was an expert of the WHO in plague for years and set up the WHO collaborating center in 1978 in Plague and Tularemia in Pasteur institute of Paris.

Figure 24: From left to right: Dr. Mahmood Bahmanyar, Dr. Marcel Baltazard, Dr. Henri Mollaret, the World Health Organization meeting on plague, 1970, Geneva

Douglas M. Lay

Dr. Douglas M. Lay was an American rodentologist from the University of Chicago who studied mammals in Iran and his book, "Study of Mammals of Iran", was the result of his research in 1962 and 1963in Iran.

Dr. Lay in later years cooperated closely with Pasteur Institute of Iran and its research teams, and in 1965 reported a particular type of mole type Talpa in the Kurdish region of Iran.

Yves Jean Golvan

Dr. Yves Jean Golvan, born in 1927, was a zoologist who performed his research focused on the Akanlu Research Center for three years. Golvan wrote “Ecology of Kurdistan Meriones and Its Relationship with Rural Plague Epidemiology" in 1961 and an article in 1963 in collaboration with Jean-Antoine Rioux.

Jean Antoine Rioux

Dr. Jean Antoine Rioux, born in 1925, was a physician and graduated from the University of Montpellier, France. He was in Iran two years and did research at the Akanlu Research Center. A book [63] and an article [64] are the results of his studies in Iran.

Alain Chabaud

Dr. Alain Chabaud (1923-2013) was a French parasitologist. He was head of the laboratory of common diseases between human and animal at the Medical History Museum of Paris from1960 to 1990. Dr. Chabaud performed research at the Akanlu Research Center. His research on Filariasis in Iran was published in several articles.

Daniel Carleton Gajdusek

Dr. Daniel Carleton Gajdusek (1923-2008) was an American physician who was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1976 for his work on the Kuru disease, the first perion human disease that was proved to be contagious in humans. Dr. Gajdusek apprenticed in research on plague at Pasteur Institute of Iran at the Akanlu Research Center in 1954 under the supervision of Dr. Baltazard.

Jean-Michel Alonso

Dr. Jean-Michel Alonso was a microbiologist and a partner in the research teams of Pasteur Institute of Iran on the mission of the plague in Mauritania and in 1975 continued plague studies at the Akanlu Research Center along with Dr. Younes Karimi.

Other partners

Mr. Dr. Ahmad Fayaz, Dr. Seyyed Mostafa Pourtaghva, Dr. Parviz Parvizi, Sadegh Hakimi, Mohammad Kheyrollahzadeh, Mostafa Amiri, Feizollah Salarkia, Hamed Salarkia, Salman Mesbah, Mousa Hakimi, Hussein Nowruzi, Marefatallah Tizfahm, Vahhab Hazrati, Abol Hassan Hussein-Nia, Sarabi, Asadollah Barandak, Mir-Azim Ghasemi, Abbas BabrZadeh, Mahmood Damavandi, Habib Jafari, Abbas Jafari, MohammadReza Agha Abbasi, Morteza Motevallian, Kazem Arghandeh, Rashid Moammer, Esmail Akbarshahi Mohammad Hossein Zarabadi, Bahram Daneshian, Iraj Dehghan, Yaghoob Khosravani, Hossein Nowruzi, Rashid Moammer and Mohsen HassanZadeh cooperated with the Akanlu Research Center in the past and had an effective and important role in its success.

Figure 25: Top right: Dr. Marcel Baltazard, Abbas Pirzadeh, Mahmood Damavandi (driver), Habib Jafari (driver), and Salman Mesbah.

Bottom right: Mohammad Hanifi, Mousa Hakimi, Dr. Younes Karimi, Mohammad Kheyrollahzadeh, Vahhab Hazrati, Sarabi, south side of Akanlu Research Center, 1961


I did not choose the plague, but it desired me!

Marcel Baltazard (1907-1971), founder of research centre