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"Medium of contagion"

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(15 October 1842): 111
Modified extract from a book review in the 1 October 1842 issue of the Medico-Chirurgical Review. PDF from photocopy, courtesy of the Taubman Medical Library, University of Michigan.

[The editors of M-CR reviewed a posthumously published book, Elements of General Pathology, by John Fletcher, M.D. The entire review is on pp. 371–79. The PDF above contains the Lancet summation (often verbatim repetition) of a portion of the review, as well as the those pages (373–74) from M-CR; PVJ]

With respect to the manner in which contagious or infectious matters enter the body, there are three principal opinions, viz., that they do so either by the lungs, the stomach, or the skin. The first [lungs] is the most ancient conjecture, and is advocated by Lucretius; it has been supported also in recent times by Sir A. Cooper. The second [stomach] was likewise an ancient notion, and has been advocated recently by Lind, Darwin, and Jackson. The third opinion [skin] seems to have originated with Fracastor, and has had but few advocates since his time. The late Dr. Fletcher, in his Elements of Pathology, inclines to the first of these opinions, and in the main we [the Editors of the Lancet] coincide with him. Our knowledge of the laws of contagion is, however, still too imperfect to enable us to dogmatise on the subject. Some curious researches have been made lately by Professor Henle, of Zurich, on the essential nature of miasms themselves. Henle determines that the miasmatic contagious diseases (corresponding with the purely contagious, and with those that are regarded by Dr. Fletcher as both contagious and infectious) depend for their existence and propagation on certain parasitical organised beings, or their germs, whose presence and development in the body are the exciting cause of the symptoms which constitute these diseases. This subject is very interesting, and should be studied in the researches of Professors Henle and Liebig.--Med. Chir. Rev., Oct.

[Keep the above in mind when reading Snow's MCC (1849). In the communication of cholera, he rejects infection of the blood via the lungs; substitutes instead another "ancient" portal of entry, oral-stomach; and argues analogically from affections caused by ova of [parasitical] intestinal worms.]

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