Throughout human history, tuberculosis (TB), an infectious disease brought on by the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MT), has been a persistent issue because of its severe social consequences. The Mycobacterium genus is thought to have originated more than 150 million years ago. Since tuberculosis has consistently been associated with a high mortality rate throughout history and in the present, it is predicted that it could account for many infectious deaths worldwide. This article discusses important historical aspects of tuberculosis as well as the various terms used to describe the illness with an emphasis on the use and replacement of the term consumption.
When was tuberculosis first identified?
Scrofula, a condition that affects the cervical lymph nodes, was first identified as a new clinical form of TB in the Middle Ages. The disease was referred to as “King’s Evil” in France and England, and it was widely believed that those who contracted it could recover with a royal touch. The first theory regarding the infectious origin of tuberculosis was put forth by the English physician Benjamin Marten in 1720, and the introduction of the sanatorium cure was the first effective treatment for the disease. Robert Koch, a renowned scientist, succeeded in isolating the tubercle bacillus and announced this amazing discovery to the society of physiology in Berlin on March 24, 1882.
Why was the term “consumption” used to describe tuberculosis?
The most common way for tuberculosis to spread through the air is when a person with active TB coughs or spits. Although it can affect other parts of the body, the disease most frequently affects the lungs. It frequently progresses slowly, and symptoms may not appear for months or even years after the initial infection. As the disease was thought to be consuming the patient, the term “consumption” became popular in the 19th century due to weight loss and the so-called “wasting away” associated with tuberculosis.
Why was the term “consumption” replaced with “tuberculosis”?
Tuberculosis was known by the ancient Greek, Roman, and Hebrew names phthisis, tabes, and schachepheth. The condition was also referred to as “the white plague” in the 1700s because of the patients’ pallor. In addition, the disease was still referred to as “consumption” in the 1800s. TB was also known as the “Captain of all these men of death” at this time. Despite the fact that Mycobacterium tuberculosis is thought to have existed for up to 3 million years, Johann Schonlein first used the term “tuberculosis” in 1834. Since tuberculosis can affect any part of the body, it is now referred to by names that reflect its location, such as pulmonary or extrapulmonary.
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