Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 21.djvu/269

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
259
THE CAUSE OF TUBERCULAR DISEASE.

animals, and, without exception, it was found that the injection of the parasite into the animal system was followed by decided and, in most cases, virulent tubercular disease.

In the cases thus far mentioned inoculation had been effected in the abdomen. The place of inoculation was afterward changed to the aqueous humor of the eye. Three rabbits received each a speck of bacillus culture, derived originally from a human lung affected with pneumonia. Eighty-nine days had been devoted to the culture of the organism. The infected rabbits rapidly lost flesh, and after twenty-five days were killed and examined. The lungs of every one of them were found charged with tubercles. Of three other rabbits, one received an injection of pure blood-serum in the aqueous humor of the eye, while the other two were infected in a similar way, with the same serum, containing bacilli, derived originally from a diseased lung, and subjected to ninety-one days' cultivation. After twenty-eight days the rabbits were killed. The one which had received an injection of pure serum was found perfectly healthy, while the lungs of the two others were found overspread with tubercles.

Other experiments are recorded in this admirable essay, from which the weightiest practical conclusions may be drawn. Koch determines the limits of temperature between which the tubercle-bacillus can develop and multiply. The minimum temperature he finds to be 86 Fahrenheit, and the maximum 104. He concludes that, unlike the bacillus anthracis of splenic fever, which can flourish freely outside the animal body, in the temperate zone animal warmth is necessary for the propagation of the newly discovered organism. In a vast number of cases, Koch has examined the matter expectorated from the lungs of persons affected with phthisis and found in it swarms of bacilli, while in matter expectorated from the lungs of persons not thus afflicted he has never found the organism. The expectorated matter in the former cases was highly infective, nor did drying destroy its virulence. Guinea-pigs infected with expectorated matter which had been kept dry for two, four, and eight weeks respectively were smitten with tubercular disease quite as virulent as that produced by fresh expectoration. Koch points to the grave danger of inhaling air in which particles of the dried sputa of consumptive patients mingles with dust of other kinds.

It would be mere impertinence on my part to draw the obvious moral from these experiments. In no other conceivable way than that pursued by Koch could the true character of the most destructive malady by which humanity is now assailed be determined. And, however noisy the fanaticism of the moment may be, the common sense of Englishmen will not, in the long run, permit it to enact cruelty in the name of tenderness, or to debar us from the light and leading of such investigations as that which is here so imperfectly described.