How humanity conquered death

Until the XIX century - before the advent of immunology, vaccinations and antibiotics - viruses and bacteria were the main agents of death. Now, most of the deadly infectious diseases are curable or preventable. recalled the deadly diseases of the past with which humanity had coped.

This is the only completely exterminated infectious disease. It is not known exactly how and when this virus began to torment people, but it is obvious that not less than several thousand years ago. At first, smallpox drove epidemics, but already in the Middle Ages it was prescribed among people on a regular basis. In Europe alone, 1.5 million people died of it every year.

A person suffers a disease once, and then he develops immunity to it. This fact was noticed in India in the eighth century and began to practice variolation — they infected healthy people from the mild form: they rubbed pus from the bubbles into the skin and nose. Variolation was brought to Europe in the 18th century. But, first, this vaccine was dangerous: every 50th patient died from it. Second, by infecting people with a real virus, the doctors themselves supported the foci of the disease.

Smallpox - the only fully exterminated infectious disease

On May 14, 1796, English doctor Edward Jenner rubbed two cuts on the skin of an eight-year-old boy James Phips with the contents of the bubbles from the hand of a peasant Sarah Nelme. Sarah was sick with cowpox, a non-dangerous disease transmitted from cows to humans. On July 1, the doctor instilled smallpox in the boy, and smallpox did not take root. Since that time, began the history of the destruction of smallpox on the planet.

Vaccination of cowpox began to be practiced in many countries, and the term "vaccine" was introduced by Louis Pasteur - from the Latin vacca, "cow". The final plan for the destruction of smallpox in the world was developed by Soviet physicians, and adopted it at the assembly of the World Health Organization in 1967. By that time, pox pockets remained in Africa, Asia, and several Latin American countries. To begin with, the maximum possible number of people was vaccinated. And then they began to search and suppress single foci of the disease. In Indonesia, 5,000 rupees were paid to anyone who would lead a patient to doctors. In India for this they gave 1,000 rupees, which is several times more than the monthly income of the peasant. In Africa, the Americans conducted an operation "Crocodile": one hundred mobile brigades on helicopters rushed to deaf places, like an ambulance. May 8, 1980 at the 33rd session of WHO, it was officially announced that smallpox on the planet was eradicated.

The disease has two main forms: bubonic and pulmonary. The first affects the lymph nodes, while the second - the lungs. Untreated after a few days, fever, sepsis, in most cases death occurs.
The planet experienced three pandemics of the plague: “Justinian” 551–580, the “black death” of 1346–1353, and a pandemic of the end of the XIX - beginning of the XX century. Local epidemics also flared up periodically. The disease was fought with quarantine and, in the late pre-bacterial era, with disinfection of dwellings with carbolic acid.

The first vaccine at the end of the XIX century was created by Vladimir Khavkin. It has been used in tens of millions of doses around the world until the 1940s. Unlike the smallpox vaccine, it cannot eradicate the disease — it only reduces the incidence of disease by 2–5 times, and the mortality rate is 10. This treatment appeared only after World War II, when Soviet physicians used newly invented streptomycin to eliminate plague in Manchuria in 1945- 1947

Now the same streptomycin is used against the plague, and the population in the outbreaks is immunized with a live vaccine developed in the 1930s. Today, up to 2.5 thousand cases of plague are registered annually. Mortality - 5−10%. For several decades now, there have been no epidemics or major outbreaks.


It is also called the disease of unwashed hands, because the virus enters the body with contaminated water or through contact with the secretions of patients. The disease often does not develop at all, but in 20% of cases infected people suffer from diarrhea, vomiting, and dehydration.

The disease was terrible. During the third cholera pandemic in Russia in 1848, according to official statistics, 1,772,439 cases were reported, of which 690,150 are fatal. Cholera riots broke out when frightened people burned hospitals, counting doctors as poisoners.

Cholera is called the disease of unwashed hands, the main prevention - hygiene

Before the advent of antibiotics, serious cholera treatment did not exist, but Vladimir Khavkin in 1892 created a vaccine from heated bacteria in Paris. He tested it on himself and his three friends, the People of the Emigrant. Massive research he conducted in India, where he achieved a reduction in mortality by 72%. Now in Bombay there is the Havkin Institute. A vaccine, though already a new generation, is still being offered to WHO as the main remedy against cholera in its outbreaks.

Today, several hundred thousand cases of cholera in endemic foci are recorded annually. In 2010, the most cases were in Africa and Haiti. Mortality - 1.2% - significantly lower than a century ago, and this is due to antibiotics. Nevertheless, the main thing is prevention and hygiene.

Leprechaun (leprosy)

This disease has always horrified people. And they treated the infected respectively: from the early Middle Ages, they were locked up in the leprosarium, which in Europe were tens of thousands, forced to notify themselves with a bell and a rattle, killed during the Crusades, were castrated, etc.

The bacterium was discovered by a Norwegian physician Gerhard Hansen in 1873. For a long time they could not cultivate it outside of a person, and it was necessary to find a cure. Cope with the infection was possible with the help of antibiotics. Dapsone appeared in the 40s of the 20th century, and rifampicin and clofazimine appeared in the 60s. These three drugs and are now included in the course of treatment.

The main weapon against leprosy is antibiotics.

Today, according to WHO statistics, leprosy occurs mainly in India, Brazil, Indonesia, Tanzania. Last year, 182,000 people were affected. Annually this number decreases. For comparison: back in 1985, more than five million people suffered from leprosy.

The disease causes a small Poliovirus hominis virus that infects the intestines, and in rare cases, enters the bloodstream and from there into the spinal cord. Such a development causes paralysis and often death. Children are ill most often. Polio is a paradoxical disease. She overtook developed countries because of good hygiene. In general, serious polio epidemics were not heard until the 20th century. The reason is that in the underdeveloped countries, children get an infection because of the unhealthy conditions in infancy, but at the same time they get antibodies to it from their mother's milk. It comes natural vaccination. And if the hygiene is good, then the infection overtakes an older person, already without a “dairy” protection.

In the United States, for example, there were several epidemics: in 1916, 27,000 people, children, and adults fell ill. In New York alone, more than two thousand deaths were registered. And during the epidemic of 1921, the future President Roosevelt fell ill, remaining a cripple for the rest of his life. Roosevelt's disease marked the beginning of the fight against polio. He invested his money in research and clinics, and in the 1930s, the people's love for him was organized in the so-called march of ten-centrs: hundreds of thousands of people sent him envelopes with coins, and so they collected millions of dollars for virology.

Poliomyelitis overtook developed countries due to good hygiene

The first vaccine was created in 1950 by Jonas Salk. It was very expensive because monkey kidneys were used as raw materials - 1,500 monkeys were needed per million doses of vaccine. Nevertheless, by 1956, she had vaccinated 60 million children, killing 200 thousand monkeys.

At about the same time, scientist Albert Sabin produced a live vaccine that did not require the killing of animals in such quantities. In the US, they did not dare to use it for a very long time: after all, it is a live virus. Then Sabin handed over the strains to the USSR, where Smorodintsy and Chumakov specialists quickly set up trials and vaccine production. They checked on themselves, their children, grandchildren and grandchildren of friends. In the years 1959-1961, 90 million children and teenagers were imparted in the Soviet Union. Poliomyelitis in the USSR disappeared as a phenomenon, isolated cases remained. Since then, vaccines have eradicated the disease worldwide.

Today, poliomyelitis is endemic in some countries in Africa and Asia. In 1988, WHO adopted a disease control program and, by 2001, reduced the number of cases from 350,000 to 1,500 a year.


"French disease" at one time was the main cause of death. At the beginning of the 20th century, whole counties suffered from syphilis, and every fifth in the Russian army was impressed.

Mercury ointments that successfully treated secondary syphilis were introduced by Paracelsus, after which they were applied 450 years until the middle of the last century. But the disease spread mainly due to illiteracy of the population. And the treatment was long.

At the beginning of the 20th century syphilis in the Russian army struck every fifth

Syphilis was treated with iodine and arsenic until antibiotics were discovered. Moreover, the first antibiotic, isolated by Sir Alexander Fleming in 1928, killed the virus on the spot.

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