Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 59.djvu/471

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THE COMBATING OF TUBERCULOSIS.

THE COMBATING OF TUBERCULOSIS.
IN THE LIGHT OF THE EXPERIENCE THAT HAS BEEN GAINED IN THE SUCCESSFUL COMBATING OF OTHER INFECTIOUS DISEASES.[1]
By Professor ROBERT KOCH,

DIRECTOR OF THE INSTITUTION FOR INFECTIOUS DISEASES, BERLIN.

THE task with which this Congress will have to busy itself is one of the most difficult, but it is also one in which labor is most sure of its reward. I need not point again to the innumerable victims tuberculosis annually claims in all countries, nor to the boundless misery it brings on the families it attacks. You all know that there is no disease which inflicts such deep wounds on mankind as this. All the greater, however, would be the general joy and satisfaction if the efforts that are being made to rid mankind of this enemy, which consumes its inmost marrow, were crowned with success. There are many, indeed, who doubt the possibility of successfully combating this disease, which has existed for thousands of years and has spread all over the world. This is by no means my opinion. This is a conflict into which we may enter with a surely-founded prospect of success, and I will tell you the reasons on which I base this conviction. Only a few decades ago the real nature of tuberculosis was unknown to us; it was regarded as a consequence, as the expression, so to speak, of social misery, and as this supposed cause could not be got rid of by simple means people relied on the probable gradual improvement of social conditions and did nothing. All this is altered now. We know that social misery does indeed go far to foster tuberculosis, but the real cause of the disease is a parasite—that is, a visible and palpable enemy which we can pursue and annihilate, just as we can pursue and annihilate other parasitic enemies of mankind.

Strictly speaking, the fact that tuberculosis is a preventable disease ought to have become clear as soon as the tubercle bacillus was discovered and the properties of this parasite and the manner of its transmission became known. I may add that I, for my part, was aware of the full significance of this discovery from the first, and so will everybody have been who had convinced himself of the causal relation between tuberculosis and the tubercle bacillus. But the strength of a


  1. An address delivered before the British Congress on Tuberculosis on July 23.