Writer Believes That Triumph of Science Over Disease Lies With the Bio-chemists.
THE vast majority of deaths that occur before the age of forty, is reached are largely due to the inroads of the tubercle bacillus and the pneumonia coccus. ‘Such deaths,’ writes a contributor to Discovery (London), ‘are truly accidents, for to be slain by a bacillus is no more inevitable than being run over by a street-car.’ Obviously, then, the remedy is to get rid of the germs. No such a simple matter, though, as the writer points out:
‘It is possible to kill a bacillus by very simple means. Carbolic acid is a favorite method. At a concentration of onequarter per cent, it will prevent the multiplication of most bacilli. Why not use carbolic acid? Well, Lister did. He sprayed acid carbolic throughout operating theatres. And the results were, frankly bad. If was not until he gave it up, and determined to kill microbes before they got to the wound rather than when in it that he won the day.
‘The problem still remains with us. It has scarcely been solved, even to the smallest extent. The explanation is simple. Any chemical that destroys micro-organisms also destroys the very delicate mechanism of the body which, in itself, combats infection.’
The ‘chemical’ cure of infectious diseases is not impossible, however; it is, in fact, a daily occurrence. The body kills its microbes by ‘chemical’ means. There is certainly a chemical basis of life. Living tissues have been analyzed; many of them have been manufactured; urea, sugar, and many other products of life can be made in the laboratory. There must be a chemical formula for the substance in healthy blood, which slays, in laboratory conditions, a microbe. The writer goes on: ‘We make our “antitoxins” today by laborious biological means. We use the horse to manufacture them. Readers of “Martin Arrowsmith” will remember that one of the characters in that book succeeds in making antitoxin in his laboratory. Alas, that character—though recognizably founded on a well-known scientist — has not yet, in real life, achieved that great success. But one need not be an H. G. Wells to foretell that result with complete confidence. How, today, do we combat infections? Frankly, we scarcely do so at all.
‘Where an organism produces a toxin, or poison, under artificial conditions, we can induce a horse to yield us an antitoxin. So we cure diphtheria, tetanus and dysentry; where it does not—as in pneumonia— we are really helpless.’
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