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The Germ Theory of Disease. In the nineteenth century when the distribution of microscopes became widespread, the sheer degree of microbial life forms was more apparent and thus the two questions Does spontaneous generation occur? a

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The Germ Theory of Disease Although the germ theory of disease is mainly accredited to Louis Pasteur for his work in disproving the theory of spontaneous generation, to Robert Koch for developing the criteria required to ascertain whether a microorganism has caused a certain disease (Koch's postulates), and to Joseph Lister for the introduction of antiseptics into surgery, a whole host of other scientists have contributed both directly and indirectly to the establishment of the theory (Snowden 2010). In the nineteenth century when the distribution of microscopes became widespread, the sheer degree of microbial life forms was more apparent and thus the two questions - "Does spontaneous generation occur?" and "What is the nature of infectious disease?" emerged (Madigan M. T. et al. 2009. pp. 10-11). The answering of these questions would lead to what would become the basis of the germ theory of disease. Question 1 - "Does spontaneous generation occur?" Many scientists have worked on and contributed to answering this question. In 1668, Francesco Redi, proved that the popular belief that maggots arose spontaneously from rotting meat was false. Even though this was on a much larger scale than disease causing microorganisms, the basic principle which would later be applied was the same. ...read more.


(Madigan M. T. et al. 2009. p.13). Question 2 - What is the nature of infectious Disease? As early as 1546, before the development of the first microscope, Girolamo Fracastoro suggested that invisible organisms caused disease, and after the discovery of the existence of microorganisms, this theory was widely accepted, however, there was no concrete evidence for this theory until much later. Edward Jenner, often referred to as the father of immunology, unknowingly used this theory to develop a vaccine for smallpox, he noticed that milkmaids did get infected with cowpox but never caught smallpox, and hypothesised that once someone was infected with cowpox, they were immune to smallpox. To test his theory he inserted pus taken from an infected milkmaid into the cut on a boy, after being exposed to smallpox several days later, the boy did not develop the disease - he was immune. (sciencemuseum.org.uk). This experiment proved that there was a similar causative agent for these diseases, and that once a person was exposed to a disease causing microorganism they are likely to develop a resistance to that disease. In 1847, Ignaz Semmelweis observed during his post in a teaching hospital in Vienna that women who had their deliveries done by midwives had a much lower rate of post delivery mortality that those done by physicians and medical students. ...read more.


Koch's postulates can be summarised as follows: * The disease causing microorganism must be present in all cases of the disease and absent in healthy organisms * The suspected disease causing microorganism should be grown in pure culture * Cells from the culture of the suspected disease causing microorganism should cause the same disease when inoculated in a healthy organism * The disease causing microorganism should be re isolated and cultured again to produce a culture which is the same as the original disease causing microorganism. The postulates provide a link between the cause and effect of an infectious disease and have lead to the development of successful treatments and prevention of many diseases. (Sherwood L.M. et al. 2008. p. 9) To conclude it could be said that modern medicine would not be what it is today without the germ theory of disease, with our understanding of the theory, measures can be taken to prevent the spread of disease and infection on a national scale such as immunisation, and on a smaller scale such as the maintenance of good aseptic technique in hospitals and public places. Without the contributions of all of these scientists, the theory may not have received recognition, so no one scientist's contribution is greater than the other, rather, the combination of these theories and experimental evidence have cumulated into what is arguably one of the most important aspects of clinical science. ...read more.

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