Monday, April 6, 2009

Rick's editorial for vaccines & disease prevention

Curiosity and rabies
(on Louis Pasteur)

The sum of all the world's knowledge in medical Science comes from people with open minds who Look with curious eyes at the messy world about Them. Louis Pasteur, born in rural France late in 1822, grew up to become one of those scientists whose curiosity made all the difference.

Starting with a knowledge of chemistry and a new tool called the microscope, Pasteur showed how different kinds of microorganisms were present when beer and wine ferment, when milk turns sour, and when meat decays. 

He helped the French beer and wine industry understand why their beverages sometimes turned bad, how to prevent contamination, and how to culture the right organisms for the best beer and wine. He showed how to heat milk in order to extend time before souring, which is still called pasteurization. 

Not long after that, Pasteur rescued the French silkworm industry from a bacterial worm disease that had been decimating the silk producing worm crop.

Pasteur came to understand a method for vaccination almost by accident. Overworked while studying how chicken cholera can be given from one chicken to another, he took a week off, leaving his vials of infected juice in the window. When he returned he used the old and weakened material to infect more chickens. When this didn't make the chickens very sick, he had to start over with newly infected material, and discovered that the chickens already exposed to weakened material were resistant to infection.

This and another experiment with anthrax in cattle brought Pasteur to refine the process of vaccination, which protects by stimulating the individual immune system.

He is most known for his vaccination rescue from rabies and certain death when in 1886 he first saved a young man and then countless people from the bites of rabid animals.

Louis Pasteur, a great and curious man, indeed.

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