Tuberculosis: People’s Plague
Consumption was characterized in 1853 as nostalgia, depression and excessive sexual
Consumption is more commonly known as TB (White Plague)
In 1800s TB peaked in Western Europe, TB was considered to be beautiful and exotic
TB was a chronic infectious disease, it was romanticized
A look Back:
TB of the lungs is called pulmonary TB is the form of the disease that we are most
When TB is localized in the lungs it can run an acute course, causing severe destruction,
so called galloping consumption
TB can also infect the lungs and intestine and larynx and sometimes the lymph nodes of
the neck are affected producing a swelling called scrofula
TB can produce the fusion of the vertebrae and the deformation of the spine called Pott’s
This may lead to hunchback and call also affect the skin and the kidney
TB of the adrenal cortex destroys adrenal functions and results in Addison’s disease.
The microbes that cause TB are called mycobacteria. They are found in soil and water
and they have a protective cell wall that is rich in unusual waxy lipids
The three mycobacteria: Mycobacterium tuberculosis, M.leprae and M.avium are
pathogens respectively caused by TB, leprosy and a pulmonary disease with swollen
glands in the neck
M.avium is an opportunistic infection that includes symptoms such as weigh lost, fevers,
chills, diarrhea and weakness.
M.bovis is closely related to M.tuberolosis and it can infect people and grows in
conditions were oxygen levels are low. However M.Tubercolosis grows best when
oxygen is plentiful-associated with pulmonary TB
TB of the spin is associated with M.bovis and caused blood infections in the spine
M.bovis is thought to arise from soul bacteria and people became infected with this by
M.tuberolisis was specific to humans and spreads through person to person through
droplets of saliva and mucus.
Tuberculosis disease of the lungs is more recent than that of the bones
It was suggest that evolved M.Tuberculosis evolved from M.bovis after cattle were
TB spread to the middle east, to the Indian tribes
Hippocrates called the disease phthisis meaning to waste, and noted that people had red
checks and that I was cause of great suffering and death
He believed that the disease was due to evil air and did not consider it contagious
Aristotle suggest that it may be contagious due to bad and heavy breath
Galem, the theory of contagion of phthisis was accepted by the Roman Empire but the
contagious agent was not found
During the Middle Ages the Royalty calmed that they had supernatural powers to health
the disease, specifically scrofula. This was referred to as the royal touching Tuberculosis refers to the characteristics of small knots or nodules. This was described by
Franciscus Dylivius and he also describe there evolution into what he called lung ulcers
Benjamin Marten was the first person who speculated the infectious nature of TB and
proposed that the cause was an animalcule (little animals seed) transmitted by breath.
The cause of the rise in TB was due to a demographic shift from rural to urban living as
well as the creation of “town dairies”
These dairies had dairy cows which provided ideal conditions for animal to animal
transmission as well as animal to human transmission
Textile industry became mechanized along with trade industry causing means to human
to human transmission
The increase density of people provided ideal conditions for transmission of M.
tuberculosis and pulmonary TB.
During the Victorian Ages, TB was attractive and it was believed that eroticism and
procreation were blended with sickness and death
Viven Leigh developed TB in the hospital and later on streptomycin and isoniazid
became available to treat TB
Incan mummy showed clear evidence of Pott’s disease. The spine had contained
Domestic herd of cattle ad well as wild herbivores probably served for the source of the
TB wad found present in prehistoric America waiting for new human hosts. When
population densities arose, the conditions of the spread of TB were favoured. It was
prevalent in countries amongst the Atlantic cost
TB was not strictly an urban disease it was also present in rural areas. The critical
element was not the total population by the size of the household
Inefficient heating and inadequate ventilation were also contributing favors in the spread
In Boston and New York consumption came to be regarded as the “Jewish disease” or
“trailer disease”. It was thought that Jews were highly susceptible to TB.
TB was used as a tool of anti-Semitism that justified the persecution of Jews
In 1900s poorer people tended to have a higher mortality from TB.
TB was a disease of Europe and North American and was absent from countries in Africa
Living in high altitudes the air was unpolluted and crisp and was considered beneficial,
but this change in scene did not cure TB.
Finding the Germ of TB
Jean-Antoine Billemin successfully transmitted tuberculosis in rabbits. TB was found in
the lungs of the lymph nodes of those that had received the pus,
Herman Pidoux had said the consumption in the poor was due to conditions of povert