Theory of Disease
Germ theory states that specific microscopic organisms are
the cause of specific diseases.
Germ theory is also called the pathogenic theory of
Germ theory led in to the development of antibiotics and
It is considered as the cornerstone of modern medicine and
Major contributors to germ theory are:
- Antoni van Leeuwenhoek
- Francesco Redi
- Rudolf Virchow
- Louis Pasteur
- Joseph Lister
- Robert Koch
Microbes, or microorganisms - minute living
things that are usually unable to be viewed with the naked
Germ - refers to a rapidly growing cell.
Spontaneous generation - the hypothesis
that living organisms arise from nonliving matter. It was an
important early development in the germ theory.
Biogenesis: living cells can arise
only from preexisting cells.
- Antibiotics - chemicals produced by bacteria
and fungi that inhibit or kill other microbes.
Explains the phenomenon of disease transmission
Means of speculative explanation and prediction of certain
Allows us to effectively function to prevent transmission
of communicable disease.
Viable basis upon which to make decisions about how to
prevent certain illnesses.
There are phenomena we do not understand that are related
to germ transmission, e.g. the communicability of cancer.
- In 1796, Edward Jenner inoculated a person with cowpox virus.
- Agostino Bassi showed a silkworm disease was caused by a
- He advocated hand washing to prevent transmission of puerperal
fever from one patient to another.
Louis Pasteur was one of the first to link germs to disease.
In 1861, Louis Pasteur demonstrated that microorganisms are
present in the air.
Pasteur discovered vaccines for chicken cholera. (1880),
Anthrax (1881) and Rabies (1885).
Pasteur also showed that microbes are responsible for
Joseph Lister is considered as inventor of antiseptic
In 1860s, Joseph Lister used a chemical disinfectant to
prevent surgical wound infections.
In 1876, Robert Koch explained a bacterium causes anthrax.
In 1882, he discovered the germ that caused tuberculosis.
In 1883, he discovered the germ that caused cholera.
- In 1928, Alexander Fleming discovered the first antibiotic
from Penicillium fungus.
"The History of the Germ Theory". The British Medical
Journal 1 (1415): 312. 1888.
- Germ Theory in Contagion: Historical Views of
Diseases and Epidemics. Harvard University Library;
accessed on 8/9/2011. Available at
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