« AnteriorContinuar »
consumption bacillus, the lock-jaw or tetanus bacillus, bacteria associated with diphtheria, typhoid fever, pulmonary affections, and various septic processes.
Such is the appetising menu which dust furnishes for our delectation.
There can be no doubt, therefore, that dust forms a very important distributing agent for micro-organisms, dust particles, aided by the wind, being to bacteria what the modern motor-car, with its benzine or electric current, is to the ambitious itinerant of the present day. Attached to dust, bacteria get transmitted with the greatest facility from place to place, and hence the significance of their presence in dust.
Mention has been made of the fact that the germs of typhoid fever have been discovered in dust, and the belief in the possibility of this disease being spread by dust is gaining ground.
An interesting case in point is afforded by an outbreak of typhoid fever which occurred in Athens a few years ago, and in which the startingpoint or nucleus was discovered to be a group of labourers who were engaged upon excavating the soil in a street through which a sewer had once been taken. The epidemic subsequently spread to those districts of the city swept by the prevailing wind, which passed over the place where the soil had been turned up and exposed.
M. Bambas, who brought his observations before the International Congress of Hygiene at BudaPesth, was convinced from the inquiries he made that this outbreak of typhoid was due to the disturbance of the soil and the dissemination by means of the wind of typhoid-dust-particles to certain parts of the city.
That this hypothesis is by no means without experimental justification is shown by the properties possessed by the typhoid bacillus in regard to its vitality in soil which have been discovered. Thus numerous investigators have studied the important question of the behaviour of this microorganism in soil, and have found that it can exist over periods extending from three to twelve or more months in the ground. This property of the typhoid bacillus may possibly explain the appearance over and over again of typhoid fever in particular localities, suggesting that the bacteria had become indigenous in the soil.
Dr. Mewius, of Heligoland, describes an epidemic of typhoid fever in the island, concerning which he made a most searching and elaborate inquiry. It appears that a case of typhoid occurred and was concealed from the medical authorities, so that no steps for disinfection could be taken in the first instance; and, following the primitive custom which prevails on the island, the dejecta
was thrown over and upon the cliffs, this being the usual method of disposing of sewage. Ample opportunity was thus given for its desiccation and subsequent distribution as dust. That this typhoidal matter did subsequently become pulverised and spread the infection Dr. Mevius has no doubt, the germs having been conveyed to the open rain-water cisterns which constitute the water-supply of the majority of the inhabitants. His theory is again supported by the coincidence between the prevailing direction of the wind and the quarter where the outbreak occurred.
That diphtheria germs can remain for a long time in a living and, what is more, virulent condition in dust has been clearly demonstrated by Germano, amongst other investigators, this organism being specially endowed with the capacity for resisting the, to other microbes, lethal effect of getting dried up.
Bacteria, however, survive this desiccation process much better when they are herded together in large numbers than when they have to face such untoward conditions as isolated individuals. This has been well illustrated in the case of diphtheria bacilli, and the difference in their powers of endurance under these respective conditions is very striking. Thus when a few only were exposed to a very dry atmosphere on
silken threads they disappeared after eight days; but when somewhat larger numbers were taken they contrived to exist for eighteen days, whilst when great multitudes of them were herded together even one hundred and forty days' starvation in these desert-like surroundings could not entirely stamp out their vitality.
This dangerous property possessed by the germs of diphtheria should, if possible, increase the vigilance with which the outbreaks of this disease are watched and dealt with. Abel cites an instance in which a wooden toy in the sickroom of a child suffering from diphtheria was found six months later to have virulent diphtheria bacilli upon it.
This reminds me of a case in which tetanus or lock-jaw ensued from the use of some old cobwebs in stopping the bleeding of a cut. The wound was a perfectly clean one, and nothing need have resulted from this obedience to a superstitious prejudice had not the cobwebs unfortunately arrested some tetanus germs, and these getting access to the wound set up the typical symptoms of lock-jaw. That this implication of the cobweb was no idle accusation was subsequently proved by portions of the same web, on being inoculated into animals, inducing in the latter well-defined symptoms of tetanus.
That cobwebs readily catch dust is familiar to everyone who has the mortification of seeing them adorn ceilings and corners; that they also arrest bacteria follows as a natural consequence of the presence of dust, and hence these delicate filaments may become veritable bacterial storehouses, more especially as it is usually in the dark and remote corners that they best succeed in eluding the vigilance of the domestic eye, and are thus also out of reach of the lethal action of sunbeams; and hence their unwelcome lodgers may manage to maintain a very comfortable existence over long periods of time.
That the bacillus of consumption should have been very frequently found in dust by different investigators is hardly surprising when it is realised that the sputum of phthisical persons may contain the tubercle germ in large numbers, and that until recently no efforts have been made in this country to suppress that highly objectionable and most reprehensible practice of indiscriminate expectoration. Considering that the certified deaths from phthisis in 1901, in England and Wales only, reached the enormous total of 42,408, and bearing in mind the hardy character of the bacillus tuberculosis when present in sputum, it having been found alive in the latter even when kept in a dry condition after ten months, it is