Changes in medicine & understanding disease

The 1850s: Lack of understanding; belief in spontaneous generation.  Didn't know real link between microbes and disease; theory that rotting material created maggots, fleas, and disease.          This theory claimed that microbes were spread through miasma bad smells/bad air. 

The 1860s: Pasteur's Germ theory - Proved that food went off due to contamination by microbes in the air.  Went on to argue that these could cause disease.

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Changes in medicine & understanding disease

Robert Koch was interested in Pasteur's ideas.  He was the first man to identify a specific microbe which caused a disease =  Anthrax (which affected herds of farm animals) was known to be able to spread through infected blood - Koch proved that the anthrax microbe caused the disease and published it in 1876. 

Pasteur was spurred on by Koch. In 1879 he was studying chicken cholera - by injecting them with a culture of the bacteria when a culture of the bacteria was left accidentally for 2 weeks, the chickens' injected with this culture weren't affected, when injected with a fresh culture, again it did not affect them!     They realised that the first batch had been weakened by its delay in using it - it had stimulated the chickens' natural defences so could fight against fresh cultures.   

This proved that Jenner's vaccination in 1796 worked and Pasteur called his method vaccination in honour of him!  However, the link between Pasteur and Jenner are slightly different as Jenner's only worked because there was a link between smallpox and cowpox; that technique could not be used against any other disease. 

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Changes in medicine & understanding disease

Chemical cures 

The first Magic Bullet - Salverson 606

  • Paul Ehrlich opened a research institute to search for a dye/drug which would attack a specific germ without affecting other antibodies.  He called it a 'magic bullet' due to superstition saying bullets could be charmed to hit a specific person. 
  • 1905 - began testing compounds based on arsenic.  
  • 1909 - new scientist joined the team asked to retest over 600 discarded chemical compounds.  He noticed that the 606th compound selected and destroyed the germ. Ehrlich tested the vaccine and in 1911 Salverson 606 was used on humans. 

The second Magic Bullet - Prontosil

  • Prontosil was the first of a class of antibiotic drugs: sulpha drugs.  Used to treat bacterial infections.  
  • Gerhard Domagk (inspired by Ehrlich's successes) began testing Prontosil in 1932 to find and destroy infectious microbes in the human body. 
  • When tested on mice to kill the streptococcus bacteria, prontosil was successful. As it was when tested on his own daughter who was infected with Streptococcus.  
  • 1936 - gained widespread recognition and was used in hospitals. 
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Changes in medicine & understanding disease

The development of penicillin

  • 1928 - Alexander Flemming observed that a mould had accidentally developed on a petri dish creating a bacteria-free zone around itself.  
  • 1935 - Florey and Chain, saw Flemmings research papers & began to further develop the drug. In 1939 they created a team of scientists (3 days after the start of WW2) and asked the government for money to research into penicillin. 
  • With that, they created enough penicillin to test on 8 mice who were injected with a deadly disease: 4 of them were then given penicillin, after 24 hrs the 4 mice without treatment died and the ones with treatment survived and were healthy! 
  • 1941 - Tested on a near-death patient: the penicillin worked, however, due to lack of it, he eventually died. 
  • 1942 -  Began to make an impact when the US joined the war and agreed to mass produce penicillin.  It saved millions of lives in the war (it is said that it helped win the war for the allies) and was a huge medical breakthrough as it could prevent infection from germs.
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