Origins in colonial times
The BNITM was founded to research and control pathogens typical of the tropics: due to increasing trade and traffic, especially with overseas countries, since the end of the 19th century more and more unusual infectious diseases had been introduced by ship crews and travellers. The cholera epidemic of 1892 in Hamburg provided the final impetus: about 9,000 people had died of the disease. The economic damage was also immense. Russian sailors or emigrants in transit had probably brought the bacterium with them. Because of the outdated drinking water system, it was able to spread quickly. The city of Hamburg was forced to restructure its health system and appointed Bernhard Nocht as harbour doctor. A little later, the city's parliament decided to "restructure the Seamen's Hospital and combine it with an Institute for Ship and Tropical Diseases".