On 25 Jan 1904, a commission with representatives from the Admiralty, the War Office and the Malta Government was appointed to investigate the life history of the Micrococcus melitensis. The commission was under the supervision of an Advisory Committee of the Royal Society. Its aims were to determine how the germ entered the body and the factors which favoured its spread. A Sub Committee of the Tropical Diseases Committee was formed consisting of Col David Bruce (Chairman), Fleet Surgeon Bassett-Smith, Dr Klein, Dr C J Martin and Dr Sidney Martin.
The Sub-Committee appointed the following members: Maj W.H. Horrocks, Staff Surgeon E. A. Shaw RN, Dr Themistocles Zammit, Dr Ralph W. Johnstone, Capt J Crawford Kennedy, Staff Surgeon R T Gilmour and Lt Col A. M. Davies.
Dr R. Johnston joined the committee on 30 June 1904. He was detailed from the local Government Board to take part in the inquiries into the fever in Malta. He was paid £500 with a subsistence allowance of 30 shillings a day and travelling expenses. Capt Crawford Kennedy was appointed a member of the committee towards the end of the year. Staff Surgeon Gilmour RN gave his spare time to the service of the commission. Col David Bruce arrived at Malta on 13 June and returned to England on 14 July.
In 1903, Mediterranean Fever had been very prevalent among the families of the 1st/King's Royal Rifle Corps quartered in the newly erected Floriana Barracks. Those of the Royal Engineers occupying the quarters completed in autumn 1903, situated on the other side of the road nearer Valletta, also suffered severely. In 1904, there were 320 hospital admissions and 12 deaths from Malta Fever.
Army medical officers believed that the infection was airborne and that the micrococcus lay dormant in the soil and spread when the soil was disturbed. Thus the turning over of the soil during the building of Floriana Barracks in 1903 was blamed for an outbreak of Malta Fever among the families in the Floriana married quarters. The month of July was considered to be the prevalent season for the fever. Barracks, bedding, and personal clothing which had been in actual contact with a patient suffering from Malta Fever were disinfected. It was noted that those in constant contact with patients contracted the disease, presumably because they drank the same milk served to their patients. Patients admitted to Bighi hospital for unrelated problems contracted Malta Fever during their in-patient care.
In 1904, four sisters of the nursing staff, and 19 NCOs of the RAMC fell ill with Malta Fever. In addition a number of cases broke out at Ghajn Tuffieha Camp. However in Mar 1904, the PMO remarked that unfortunately the garrison had several men afflicted. Three nursing ladies and four officers and a lot of troops went down with it.
The PMO had insufficient men to allow them time to investigate Mediterranean Fever. He commented that although his young officers were very keen on investigating the disease, it was quite impossible to have them all at Headquarters. He had a staff of only twenty-one officers. These had to take it in turn to provide medical support to the outlying camps and to Gozo.
Of his twenty-one officers, three were on sick leave, two were in Crete, seven were at out stations and one was the sanitary officer. The PMO pointed out that his officers were occupied mainly with looking after the needs of the countless families in the districts rather than engaged in hospital work. In addition, two of his officers were on duty to the north of the island where two camps had been recently established.