Tuesday, 24 March 2020


The World Health Organisation marks today as International Tuberculous Day in deference to the 1882 to the meeting of a small group of scientists and professors, including pioneering immunologist Paul Ehrlich, at the Institute of Hygiene at the University of Berlin wherein Doktor Robert Koch (*1843 – †1910)—a name now also very much in the news, astounded those assembled by announcing the elusive cause of the infectious disease to be a pathogenic bacteria.
Lucidly and convincingly, Koch was able to present his case to academics and authorities and suggest effective interventions at a time when germ theory still battled with rumour and superstition in the realm of epidemiology as TB spread through Europe and North America. While Koch did not think the there was a zoonotic connection between the human and cattle incidence of the disease (bovines being the vector) and thus delayed the identification of milk and other dairy products as one source of contamination (an oversight that colleague Louis Pasteur corrected), Koch developed a crucial screening process that could identify, isolate and treat carriers prior to symptoms manifesting. Though much diminished, TB has not been eradicated and remains the second most common cause of death (AIDS being the first) from a communicable disease with approximately eight million new cases per year.