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Full text of "Pathogenic Bacteria"

INTRODUCTION.                       27

1704, contained a description of a new and secret method
of treating wounds, by which healing took place quickly
without inflammation or suppuration; but it is to one of
old Scotia's sons, Sir Joseph Lister, that the everlasting
' gratitude of the world is due for the knowledge we pos-
sess in regard to the relation existing between micro-
organisms and inflammation and suppuration, and the
power to render wounds aseptic through the action of
germicidal substances." l

Lister was not the discoverer of carbolic acid nor of
the fact that it would kill bacteria; but, convinced that
inflammation and suppuration were due to the entrance
of germs from the air, instruments, fingers, etc. into
wounds, he suggested the antisepsis which would insist
upon the use of sterile instruments and clean hands and
towels; which would keep the surface of the wound
moist with a germicidal solution to kill such germs as
accidentally entered; and which would conclude an ope-
ration by a protective dressing to exclude the entrance of
germs at a subsequent period.

Listerism, originated (1875) a few years before Koch
published his famous work on the Wundinfectionskrank-
heiten (traumatic infectious diseases) (1878), spread slowly
at first, but surely in the end, to all departments of sur-
gery and obstetrics.

The discovery of the yeast-plant by Latour and
Schwann as the cause of fermentation, and the later dis-
covery by Bassi of the yeast-like plant causing the mias-
matic contagious disease of silkworms, had led Henle
(1840) to believe that the cause of miasmatic, infective,
and contagious diseases must be looked for in fungi or
in other minute living organisms. Unfortunately, the
methods of study employed in Henle's time prevented
him from demonstrating the accuracy of his belief.

" It would indeed have been difficult at that period to
satisfy every condition that he required to be fulfilled:
the methods now in use were then unknown, and have

1 Agnew's Surgery, vol. i. chap. ii.