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Robert Koch discovers the TB bacillus.

On March 24, 1882, Robert Koch announced that he had isolated the tubercle bacillus, proving for the first time that the disease, then known as consumption, was caused by a germ. This living organism could be passed from person to person.

Because the disease seemed to be an ever-present fact of life and did not sweep suddenly through countries like smallpox or plague, consumption did not elicit panic or a demand by the public to do something about it. Not everyone in the scientific community took it seriously or even believed its truth.

The New York Times ignored Dr. Koch's announcement for more than four months. When it did publish a slim news item, it also editorialized that the presumption of a germ causing consumption was ridiculous.

At the American Medical Association's annual meeting that year, Koch's discovery was ignored entirely. By the early 1890's, as more scientists in the United States were becoming convinced that the disease, now called tuberculosis, was in fact microbe-related, the medical association allowed references to appear in its journal.

From Koch's recognition of the tubercle bacillus to Waksman's discovery of streptomycin over thirty decades of trial and error passed; the contributions of these men to medical science remain almost obscure footnotes.
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Title Annotation:Special Issue: Tuberculosis; tubercle bacillus isolated March 24, 1882
Publication:Nutrition Health Review
Date:Jun 22, 1991
Previous Article:An old disease meets a new confrontation.
Next Article:Selman A. Waksman confronts the killer; the discovery of streptomycin: for the first time, tuberculosis meets a potent adversary.

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