When Was Tuberculosis Discovered?

When was the ‘white plague’ discovered?
It was a German physician and scientist, Robert Koch, who discovered ‘Mycobacterium tuberculosis’, the bacterium which causes tuberculosis, on 24 March, 1882. The discovery made him a famous scientist; almost immediately his papers were translated into English and he was conferred with the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1905.

Tuberculosis or TB, as it is commonly called, is not only limited to the human beings; it also affects the animals. Before the technique of pasteurization was discovered, it was common for the humans to catch this disease from the animals. Coughing, fever, nightly sweats etc are some of the symptoms of the disease. Tuberculosis usually affects the lungs and, occasionally the brain, and it is a contagious disease. Sometimes, a person affected with the TB-bacteria doesn’t show any symptoms. This condition is known as ‘latent TB infection’. (‘Latent’ is a Latin word which means ‘hidden’) A person affected with ‘latent TB infection’ doesn’t feel sick until the bacteria get activated. It is estimated that about a third of living beings on the planet are affected with ‘latent TB infection’.
tuberculosisIt would take decades, after Robert Koch’s discovery of what causes tuberculosis, before any one came up with a treatment of the disease. Gerhard Domagk, a German scientist, found out in 1935 that an organic compound named ‘Prontosil’ impacts the growth of TB bacteria. His discovery could not create much of an excitement among those who were looking for a treatment. The amount of ‘Prontosil’ required to control the bacteria was toxic to the human beings.

It was an American scientist, Selman Waksman, who discovered that a fungus named Streptomyces griseus constrained the growth of the TB-bacteria. He created a drug based on the fungus. For his discovery, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1952. More drugs were discovered later on. Even today, two or more drugs are used to treat a person infected with tuberculosis to make sure that the bacteria do not develop drug resistance; the therapy lasts for months.

Category: Diseases & Conditions, Health

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