Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Discovery of tuberculosis

The disease of tuberculosis, has been known for centuries. Mummies from the Egyptian pre-dynastic era and the Peruvian pre-Columbian era show typical vertebral lesions. Tuberculosis was well known in classical Greece, where it was called phthisis. Hippocrates clearly recognized tuberculosis and understood its clinical presentation.

The oldest evidence for human tuberculosis was found in a Neolithic infant and woman in a 9000-year-old settlement in the Eastern Mediterranean.

In 1720, for the first time, the infectious origin of tuberculosis was conjectured by the English physician Benjamin Marten, in his publication “A new theory of Consumption.”

Both terms consumption and phthisis were used in the 17th and 18th centuries, until in the mid-19th century Johann Lukas Schönlein coined the term “tuberculosis”.

Understanding of the pathogenesis of tuberculosis began with the work of Theophile Laennec at the beginning of the 19th century and was further advanced by the demonstration of the transmissibility of Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection by Jean-Antoine Villemin in 1865.

Mycobacterium tuberculosis, then known as the "tubercle bacillus," was first described on March 24, 1882 by Robert Koch. Using the methylene blue staining recommended by Paul Ehrlich, he identified, isolated and cultivated the bacillus in animal serum. Finally, he reproduced the disease by inoculating the bacillus into laboratory animals.

Mycobacterium tuberculosis is the etiologic agent of tuberculosis in humans. Humans are the only reservoir for the bacterium. Robert Koch presented this extraordinary result to the society of Physiology in Berlin on 24 March 1882. Further molecular analysis of these very first isolates confirmed the identification of M. tuberculosis and indicated that Koch’s isolates belong to the ‘modern’ lineage of M. tuberculosis.

Clemens von Pirquet developed the tuberculin skin test in 1907 and 3 years later used it to demonstrate latent tuberculous infection in asymptomatic children. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries sanatoria developed for the treatment of patients with tuberculosis.
Discovery of tuberculosis

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