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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 61.djvu/569

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RECENT ADVANCES IN SCIENCE.

condition is that known as Heterotopia, in which fragments of tissues or organs are found dwelling in a situation other than that which is normal to them. This is particularly the case with certain glands, such as the thyroid and suprarenal, but is also known with cartilage, teeth, and the various constituents of dermoids. It no doubt occurs by process of transplantation, the misplaced tissues developing no new properties, but merely preserving their normal powers of growth. The attempt to generalize from this fact and to attribute all tumor formations to this cause carries the idea beyond its proper scientific limits.

 

Parasitism and Infection.

With regard to the subject of parasitism, the progress of scientific observation was retarded for centuries by the prevalence of the assumption made by Paracelsus that disease in general was to be regarded as a parasite. Pushed to its logical conclusion, this view would imply that each independent living part of the organism would act as a parasite relatively to the others. The true conception of a parasite implies its harmfulness to its host. The larger animal parasites have been longest known, but it is not so many years since their life history has been completely ascertained and the nature of their cysts explained, while an alternation of generations has been discovered in those which are apparently sexless. Very much more recent is the detection of the parasitic protozoa, by which the occurrence of the tropical fevers may be explained. As yet we have not complete knowledge as to their life history, but we hold the end of the chain by which this knowledge can be attained. The élite of the infectious diseases are, however, the work of the minutest kind of parasitic plants, bacteria, the scientific study of which may be said to date from Pasteur's immortal researches upon putrefaction and fermentation. The observation of microbes under exact experimental conditions, and the chemical investigation of their products opened up the modern field of bacteriology, a science among the early triumphs of which were the discoveries of the bacilli of tubercle and Asiatic cholera by Robert Koch. In connection with this subject three important landmarks require comment. One is the necessity for distinguishing between the cause and the essential nature of infectious diseases, the latter of which is determined by the reaction of the tissues and organs to microbes. Secondly, there is the relation between the smaller parasites and the diseases determined by them. This may be summed up in the general word [introduced by Professor Virchow himself] "infection." But to assume that all infections result from the action of bacteria is to go beyond the domain of present knowledge, and probably to retard further progress. The third point is the question as to the mode of action of infection. It is only the larger parasites