Plagues and Peoples
Tuberculosis (Text. Chpt.13, C.R. 1059-1065, 270-278)
- During the Middle Ages, in Europe, Royalty claimed that they have special powers and can heal
diseases, especially scrofula by simply just touching them and making the sing of the cross – an
accurate description of ceremony is given in Macbeth and in England was known as the Kings Evil or
- Most pathologists at the time, believed that the disease was due to tumours or abnormal glands
instead of infection.
- First credible speculation of infectious nature of TB was of Benjamin Marten, who in 1772 proposed
that the cause was an animalcule or their seed transmitted by Breath from the lungs that another
person can catch.
- In 1780 were TB was at its peak in England, it was estimated that 20% of deaths were from TB.
- Reach North America in 1900. This spread may have been because of creation of “town dairies”.
- TB was spread by overcrowding, textile industry being mechanized, and in England the number of
windows in buildings became minimized which enhanced the rebreathing of exhaled air of people
working in crowded, airless rooms.
- TB is seen as a plague in disguise and is the plague of all plagues.
- There is little scientific evidence to show that TB had a real effect on the brain or on creativity.
- Miliary TB is called so because the small tubercles in the lungs look like millet seeds and spread
throughout the body via the bloodstream.
- In urban centers of New York and Boston, consumption came to be seen as “a Jewish disease” or the
- Even today, there is a higher incidence of TB in U.S. prisons because: prevalence is higher among
new prisoners than in the general population, because there is a preponderance of prisoners from the
lower end of socioeconomic scale, close living arrangements make transmission more likely, and more
HIV infected people.
- In 1900s, poorer people had higher mortality from TB, and the greatest number of deaths occurred
between the ages of 15 and 45, but there was also a minor peak between 5 and 10 years of age.
- American Indians were highly vulnerable to TB, were virtually killed off by being herded together
- In 19th century, some believed that TB was an act of God against which there was no defence.
- Others were convinced that it was because of bad air present in crowded and dirty cities.
Finding the Germ of TB (286)
- In 1865, a French military physician, Jean-Antoine Villeman (1827-1892) succeeded in transmitting
TB to rabbits.
- He did this by recovering pus from the lung cavity of a TB patient. Some months later, TB was
found in the lungs and the lymph nodes of the rabbits that were injected with pus.
- Robert Koch (German physician) announced in front of a sceptical audience that he had found the
microbe of TB (M. tuberculosis).
- Robert Koch wrote that under the microscope, all animal tissues (i.e. nuclei) were brown, and
tubercle bacilli were beautifully blue when methylene blue was added.
- Koch then announced that he had discovered a protective substance made from extract of bacillus –
tuberculin (known as PPD, purified protein derivative, today).
- Tuberculin produced fever, malaise and signs of illness – tuberculin was dangerous and sometimes
- Tubercle bacilli sensitize the body to tuberculin so that, when injected in sufficient quantities to a
TB patient, tuberculin can kill the patient via a delayed hypersensitivity reaction.
- Tuberculin serves as a diagnostic test.
- Cows with positive tuberculin skin test were killed because of infectious milk.