Thursday, 28 July 2005

The History of Tuberculosis (TB)

Mycobacterium tuberculosis

We know that TB has been present since ancient times and has been one of the main causes of death throughout the ages. Examinations of parts of the spinal columm of Egyptian mummies from 2400 BC, show certain signs of the disease.

The official name for the cause of the disease is Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Throughout the centuries it has had many names. The Ancient Greeks called it phthisis (consumption). Around 460 BC Hippocrates identified the disease as the most widespread one of his time, noting that almost every case was fatal. He even advised his fellow doctors not to visit patients at the late stages of the disease as their death would be inevitable.
During the 17th century the first pathological and anatomical decriptions of the disease appeared. Sylvius in 1679, was the first to identify the tubercles as a characteristic change occuring in the lungs and other areas of the patients' body. The earliest references to the infectiousness of the disease appear in Italian medical writings of the time. The Republic of Lucca issued an edict in 1699 which stated that "henceforth, human health should no longer be endangered by objects remaining after the death of a consumptive. The names of the deceased should be reported to the authorities and measures undertaken for disinfection."

In 1720, the English doctor Benjamin Marten, was first to suspect that the disease might be caused by "wonderfully minute living creatures". He also warned against close contact with patients which would lead to spread of the disease.
By the mid 1800s the sanatorium treatment was being introduced (exposure of the patient to plenty of fresh air and sun). Dr. Hermann Brehmer was the pioneer of this treatment after he went on a holiday to the Himalayas and found that when he returned home he was cured of the disease.
In 1882 Robert Koch was the first to find a way to actually see the bacteria that cause tuberculosis. The enemy was now identified and the war could begin.
While sanatoria continued to spread like wildfire throughout Europe and the United States, significant progress was made. The invetion of X-ray in 1895 by Wilhelm Konrad von Rontgen meant that patients progress could now be monitored at a very detailed level. In the early part of the 20th century the BCG vaccine was discovered. This is still used today. The final and decisive breakthrough came during the middle of World War II, when streptomycin
was discovered and the bacterium which had plagued humanity for thousands of years could now be crushed...


John Doom said...

I LOVE this blog! Great post.

Alterior said...

Thanks! :-))))

orangeguru said...

Thanks for that great insight into medical history. Yeah earler healers were sometimes very brave and/or stupid people. Another hip-hip-hurray for science!

Chris H. said...

Dear Alterior,
My name is Chris, I live in a small hick town in the United States. first off I wanted to thank you for your educational blog. It isn't everyday that I come across a blog that can teach things of the past. second I also wanted to say that I am using some of the information on your page. Don't worry the credit of all findings are given entirely to you. and thirdly, Im sure you get comments like these quite often but you are very beautiful. again thank you.

Chris H.

Anonymous said...

Hey, thanks for the info. It helped with school. Keep this research stuff up. You seem to be very artistic and creative and I'd like to use more of your info in the future. Thanks again.

-That one guy