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Von Pettenkoffer puts the etiology of cholera is an equation of three unknown quantities — x, y, z. Let x be the specific germ or microbe disseminated by human intercourse; y the something which depends on place or time, the something which might be described as the “local disposition”; and z the individual predisposition which must exist in all infectious and con-tagious diseases. Von Pettenkoffer complains that modern sanitarians, since Koch discovered the cholera bacillus, have altogether eliminated the y, or second condition of the equation:
“This theory,” writes a correspondent of the Philadelphia Evening Telegraph, “Herr von Pettenkoffer has sought to prove on his own person. He lives at Munich, and Munich was not, this year, locally disposed to contract cholera. A great fair was held, numerous travelers came from Hamburg, where the most fearful epidemic of cholera was raging; but it was all in vain; the cholera could not obtain a footing in Munich. Von Pettenkoffer concluded that Munich and its inhabitants were not predisposed, and therefore could not be contaminated. This he bravely determined to illustrate on his own person. Dr. Gaffky sent him from Hamburg the most virulent culture of cholera germs. At one dose Von Pettenkoffer swallowed several milliards of comma bacilli. That these were vital and effective was proved by the attack of diarrhoea they produced. He took no medicine, yet in five days the diarrhoea ceased. The evacuations were bacteriologically examined and found to contain pure cultures, in large quantities, of the cholera germs. Then Professor Emmerich made the same experiment, with similar results. For more than a week each of these Professors had in his intestines millions, countless millions, of true cholera germs, the lineal descendants of the comma bacilli taken from the intestines of persons who had died of cholera at Hamburg, and yet they did not suffer in any way from cholera. These billions of true cholera germs were not killed, the evacuations were not disinfected, they were thrown into the drains and sewers of Munich, where, had the town been locally disposed, they might have spread death on all sides. Not one single case of cholera occurred. Swallow the germ, spread it broadcast; if there is not a local predisposition, you cannot produce cholera. But it was, nevertheless, a bold experiment, and I cannot better conclude this most important subject that by quoting Von Pettenkoffer's own account of how and why he swallowed this terrible living poison :—
'I drank the cholera mixture in the presence of witnesses on the 7th of October. It tasted like very pure water! Some were anxious about me and begged that I would allow them to sacrifice themselves for their old teacher, but I wished to act on the old medical principle, 'Fiat experimentum in corpore vili.” I was right in regarding myself as “corpore vili.” I am seventy-four years old, have had glycosuria for years, have not a single tooth in my head, and only use my artificial teeth when I have to make a speech, not needing them for mastication, and I also feel other burdens of advancing age. Even if I had deceived myself and the experiment had endangered my life, I should face death calmly, for it would not be as a thoughtless or cowardly suicide. I should die in the cause of science, like a soldier on the field of honor. Health and life, as I have often said, are very great earthly gifts, but not the highest. He who wishes to rank higher than the brute must be ready to sacrifice even life and health for great ideals. However, to me the matter did not seem quite so tragic, for I was firmly convinced my x could not kill without my y.'“
May not the x of Von Pettenkoffer's equation be safely eliminated? Given the local conditions and the personal predisposition, especially the latter, will these not produce the disease, and the disease in turn the “germ?” How else are the cases of “sporadic cholera,” with full equipment of “comma bacilli,” that occur every year in this country to be accounted for?
|Source:||The Homoeopathic Recorder Vol. 08 No. 01, 1893, page 14-15|
|Description:||Professor Pettenkoffer's Experiments with the Cholera Bacilli.|
|Editing:||errors only; interlinks; formatting|