Adelchi Negri

Original article: Adelchi Negri, by Ismael Sanchez Polanco


Adelchi Negri was born on the 16th of July 1876 in Perugia, Umbria’s main town. He studied at the faculty of Medicine at the University of Pavia, where he was a student and assistant of the famous scientist Bartolomeo Camillo Emilio Golgi, who discovered the Golgi’s reticulum. In 1900 Negri graduated and started some research in cytology, histology, hematology, protozoology, and hygiene (Fig.1).

Adelchi Negri
Figure 1 – Adelchi Negri [Bibliography:]

In 1903 Adelchi Negri’s research focused on the Purkinje cells in the cerebellum in animals and people infected with rabies. He observed the presence of unusual cytoplasmic inclusions. After two years, he was nominated assistant of General pathology, and in 1909, he became professor of Bacteriology. Moreover, Adelchi supported the malaria eradication campaign in Lombardy and the study of smallpox. He died on February 19 in 1912, in Pavia at the age of 35, from tuberculosis.

Virus or Protozoa?

Despite his important discovery, Adelchi Negri didn’t find out what was the pathogen responsible for rabies. Negri wrongly thought that the cytoplasmic inclusions forming the Purkinje cells’ inner part were part of a new protozoa species replicative cycle that he named “Neurocytes hydrophobiae”. Nevertheless, in 1904 Paul Remlinger and Alfonso di Vestea (Fig. 2), with different researches, found out that the etiological agent responsible for rabies was a virus.

Alfonso di Vestea
Figure 2 – Alfonso di Vestea [Bibliography :]

Rabies virus and Negris corpuscles

Rabies is a zoonosis caused by the rabies virus, and a bite of an infected animal transmits it. When this virus infects the cell, it began its replicative phase forming the cytoplasmic inclusions containing the virus. In 1903 Adelchi Negri found out and described these cytoplasmic cells and report his discovery in an article entitled ” Contribution to the etiology study of rabies, published in the Bulletin of the Medical-Surgical Society (Contributo allo studio dell’eziologia della rabbia, pubblicato nel Bollettino della Società medico-chirurgica)”; these will be called “Negri bodies“, after his discoverer (Fig.3).

Image of "Negri bodies" at the Electron microscope
Figure 3 –Image of “Negri bodies” at the Electron microscope [Bibliography:]

Scientific contribution

Adelchi Negri simplified the diagnosis of rabies in animals suspected of infection by the virus. At the same time, the discovery of Negri bodies allowed one to ascertain its presence. The infected cells’ inclusions represent one of the most important marks of viral infection. Moreover, he indicated the rules to follow in the observation and identification of the cytoplasmic bodies.


The town of Pavia dedicated a street near the Ospedale Policlinico San Matteo and his grave is between Bartolomeo Panizza and his teacher Bartolomeo Camillo Emilio Golgi, in the graveyard of Pavia (Fig. 4).

 Adelchi Negri's tomb
Figure 4 – Adelchi Negri’s tomb [Bibliography:]


  • “Adelchi Negri and schools of General Pathology in Italy between the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth century” Alfredo Margareth Rend. Fis. Acc. Linceis. 9, v. 14:251-262 (2003)

Picture bibliography



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