History of Microbiology

In Antiquity

    Ordinances of Manu
(1300 BCE)
         & Avicenna (1020 CE) warns of contagious tuberculosis
    Bhagavata Purana (500 BCE) associate transmission of bubonic plague with rats
    Mosaic Pentateuch
(Numbers, Deuteronomy) (1000 ~ 650 BCE)
        Dietary laws recognize trichinosis via pork
        Ritual washing (Mikveh) prevents transmission
        Muslim preparatory practices similar
     Nero (ruled 14 - 37 CE) banned kissing to prevent oral herpes

G Fracastoro (1476 - 1533)

    "Syphilus Suffering from the French Disease" (1530)
        Described symptoms in Italian shepherd "Syphilus"
    "About Contagion and Contagious Diseases" (1546)
        transferable fomites bx humans, animals, objects
        airborne tuberculosis
        dog-borne rabies
        milk-borne syphilis? [Not]

Variolation (& Vaccination)
    Anticipated 1000 BCE in India
        Injection of pus from blisters (variolation) attenuates smallpox (usually)
        "Live" vaccine introduced from Arabia to Europe (1717)
            by Mary Wortley Montagu (1689 - 1762)
    E Jenner (1749 - 1823) vaccination uses cowpox blisters against smallpox (1796)
    19th cent: puerperal sepsis (child-bed fever)
        I Semmelweiss (1818 - 1865): an example of scientific method
15% mortality from in some hospital wards
                 Worst incidence in ward adjacent to morgue
                 Iatrogenic sepsis via transfer of "putrefying organic matter" from cadavers to mothers
            Wash hands, instruments in lime chloride [ Ca(ClO)2 ]
                 8.3% mortality down to 2.3% as in home birth
            Subject to antisemitism (?): Largely ignored, personality disorder

Microorganisms & Germ Theory of Disease
Marcus Terentius Varro speculates on unseen "animalcules" (1st cent BCE):
[T]here are bred certain minute creatures which cannot be seen by the eyes,
      but which float in the air and enter the body through the mouth and nose and cause serious diseases

    Nature of Disease (18th cent)
        Humoural imbalance: Blood, phlegm, bile, urine, sweat
            corrupted ("peccant") fluids
            bloodletting, emetics, heating / cooling, etc
        Predisposing & Exciting factors: innate disposition, weather, etc.
        Miasma as noxious agent: "bad air"
        Non-specificity: Single disease entity has multiple causes:
, scarlet fever  measles           

    A van Leeuwenhoek (1632 - 1723)
        single double-convex lens gives 275X magnification (ca. 1670)
        Described "animalcules" in pond water; semen
        Connection to disease not made

    F Redi (1626 - 1697) "Omne vivum ex vivo"
        Disproof of spontaneous generation (1665)

            Meat in closed containers does not produce flies
            Meat in containers w/ porous cloth does not produce flies
                (gauze right maggoty)
            Closed container opened attracts flies
⋙  maggots flies'
             BTW: dead flies or maggots on meat do not produce flies
            [HOMEWORK: what does each stage prove about maggots?]
        Spallanzani & Schwann used sealed or heated glassware
            Objection: lack of air and (or) heat destroys 'vital principle'

    Fungi identified as plant pathogens >1807

    John Snow (1813 - 1858) & "Broad Street" Cholera epidemic (1854)

    L Pasteur (1822 - 1895)
        1848 experiments with dextro- & levo forms of tartaric acid crystals (=>
Légion d'honneur)
        1858 experiments show specific microbes for
                 wine (ethanol, CH3CH2OH), beer (carbonic acid, H2CO3), vinegar (acetic acid, CH3COOH):
                 "yeasts" grow in vitro
        1861 experiment shows origin of microbial contamination
            Flasks filled with infusion, boiled
            Stem drawn out as "Swan-neck S" trap (
Bottle en col de cygne), open to air
            Infusion remains clear, except if tipped into S neck
                any 'vital principle' not affected
         => J Lister (1827 - 1912) 1865 introduces carbolic acid as surgical antiseptic
         Anthrax vaccine field tested June 1870: only vaccinated sheep survive (Yea!)
                                                                           but all cattle (Boo!)
            [ Pouilly-le-Fort demonstration used Chamberland's vaccine based on Touissant's idea ]
         1885 Rabies vaccine successful on Joseph Meister (Notebooks say, Maybe not so much ....)

    R Koch (1843 - 1910)
        1876 experiments show anthrax caused by coliform bacterium
            coliforms present in dead animals, not in live ones
            coliforms culturable in vitro (1881) over several generations
                lifecycle: coliform
spore coliform ⋙ spore
                coliform passage bx media dilutes out non-living organics
            cultured coliforms injected into mice virulent
                coliforms present in dead mice: Bacillus anthracis
Koch's Postulates
            1. Etiologic agent always present with disease, never without
            2. Etiologic agent culturable in vitro
            3. Cultured agent transmissible to new host
            4. Same etiologic agent recoverable in vivo

Golden Age of Microbiology (1875 - 1915)
        Differential histological staining (1878): P Ehrlich (1854 - 1915)

        Gram stain (1884) & Petri dish (1887)

    Microbial Ecology
        M Beijerinck (1851 - 1931) & S Winogradsky (1856 - 1953)
        Nitrogen fixation
by non-photosynthetic soil microbes

        P Ehrlich & E Metchnikoff (1845 - 1916) on immune response (Nobel, 1908)
            humoral-mediated antibodies & cell-mediated phagocytes
        K Landsteiner (1868 - 1943) identifies ABO & other blood types (Nobel, 1930)

    Industrial Microbiology
Pasteurization prevents spoilage
        Applicable to wine, beer, & milk

    Virology (>1892)
Twort (1915) & d'Herelle (1917) identify virus
    filterable agents smaller than bacteria; non-culturable
bacteriophage ('phage) destroy bacteria: potential disease treatment? [not]

    Medical Microbiology
       E von Behring & Ehrlich develop anti-diphtheria vaccine (first Nobel, 1901)
        P Ehrlich
& S Hata develop salvarsan ('606') treatment for syphilis
        A Fleming (1881 - 1955) et al. discover (1928) & develop (1942) antibiotic penicillin (Nobel, 1945)
See also sulfa, streptomycin, polio (Nobel prizes 1939, 1952, 1954)

    Molecular Biology (> 1943)

        O Avery identifies of DNA as transforming agent (1944) in Salmonella
         S Luria - M Delbruck experiment (1943) (Nobel, 1969)
         E. coli discovered (1885), strain K-12 (1922), tamed
       Bacteriophage shows genetic variation, mutability
             "Phage Group" develops bacteriophage as simple genetic system

Text material ©2021 by Steven M. Carr