The Royal Pasteur Institute started its work in Niš, under military management, in separate building, as the first preventive care institution in the Balkans in June 1900, (only ten years after the founding of the Pasteur Institute in Paris). It was established visionary in order to involve local experts to start production of animal lymph, and to treat people bitten by rabid animals, using vaccines produced in local conditions. By the end of that year, 11,540 units of the serum were made and used mostly for military purposes.
According to the Serbian Army Ministry order, Royal Pasteur Institute was officially established in December 25th 1900. Dr. Dragutin Petkovic (1873–1947) was the first manager of Royal Pasteur Institute, Niš and for the production of anti-rabies vaccine, he used Hegyes method from Budapest. This method represented a significant improvement of Pasteur’s method. In the first year of the Institute’s activity, more than 200 people were cured after being bitten by rabid animals and only 3 died. In the period 1901-1915. the Pasteur Institute was the only institution of its kind in the country. Dr Petkovic published about 20 scientific paper. In 1904, the activities of Institute further developed and bacteriological unit and disinfection unit established. The first training course in Serbia about disinfection was done.
During the First World War, the Pasteur Institute in Nis was destroyed and important archives were lost. Shortly after the War, Serbia and Montenegro were included in the ‘Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes’. A comprehensive analysis of the rabies situation at that time revealed that police authorities in charge of animal rabies control did nothing to implement control measures (unsatisfactory in themselves) prescribed by the existing laws; in city streets, packs of dogsandered freely. As a consequence, the number of injured persons increased sharply. For example, in Nis alone in 1921, 2,022 were treated. For example, in the same year, 1,837 were treated in the Zagreb Institute and 1,083 treated in its department in Velika Gorica.
Immediately after the First World War, the Pasteur Institute in Nis was reconstructed under the guidance of the new director, Dr Gerasimos Alivisatos from Greece, and transformed into the civil institution. Alivisatos decided to try to improve Hogyes method by using combined dilution of live vaccine with concentrated ether treated vaccine. He published his work about the ‘Alivisatos ether method’ as it was called in the Deutschen Medicinische Wochenschrift journal in 1922. ether for attenuation. This method was soon accepted in all Yugoslav Pasteur Institutes, and also in Pasteur Institutes in Athens, Vienna, Sofia, Madrid and Buenos Aires. Introduction of Alivisatos’ method was particularly important bearing in mind that, the number of persons given this treatment in the Kingdom during 1921-1925 was the highest in Europe, an annual average of over 5,500 cases. Of this number, those treated in Nis comprised about one-third.
In October 14th 1923. the Pasteur Institute, Niš became the Epidemiological Institute, with priority to control infectious diseases, like dysentery and typhus. The special unit for high-quality terrain work was established with four cars and special equipment (mobile bacterial laboratory, device for disinfection, bath and car for transport of patients).
In 1926. the Institute became the first Hygiene Institute in the country. In this period, the priority was hygienization, mostly in rural communities, including health education of the population and promotion of different socio-medical items. A great number of bacteriological laboratories, stations for desinfection, antituberculosis and school clinics with bathrooms were founded. Besides chemical and sanitary-technical units, the health statistical unit was established, as forerunner of social-medicine work.
Between two World Wars, many physicians – scholars of League of Nations, the Rockefeller Foundation, WHO etc. visited the Institute as example of good practice.
In the 1941 – 1951 period, the Institute has gone through a very difficult period of war and postwar reconstruction, like many other similar institutions in the country, without human and material resources. Six departments were established: bacteriological-epidemiological, socio-medical, sanitary-technical, chemical, unit for health care protection of schoolchildren and antituberculosis unit. In 1946, the secondary medical school in Niš, one of oldest in Serbia, opened and the Institute had important role in that process.
An important year for the Institute was 1961, when it became the Institute for Health Protection and one of the most important professional, educational and scientific basis for the Faculty of medicine University of Niš. Already in 1965. the first professional meeting Days of preventive medicine took place in the Institute and this tradition sustain till nowadays.
In the latest half of the twentieth century, the main sectors of the Institute were social medicine, hygiene, epidemiology and microbiology.
The Institute further changed its name several more times and finally from the end of the 2006, its official name became the Public Health Institute Nis, focused on improving the public health on the territory of Nisava and Toplica district.
As part of network of public health institutes in the Republic of Serbia, and leading public health, research and educational institution, educational base of Medical faculty in Nis it works on three levels of health care, providing preventive, diagnostic and therapeutic medical services in the following areas: Microbiology with Parasitology and Virology, Epidemiology (Diseases control), Hygiene with medical ecology, Medical statistics and informatics, Social Medicine and Health Promotion.