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experiments.” That is, we are able to cultivate them artificially in suitable media, and to study their mode of development in the laboratory, quite independently of the animals from which our "pure cultures” were obtained in the first instance. The culture fluids used are prepared from the flesh of various animals ; and when to one of these a certain quantity of gelatine is added, we have a “solid culture medium,” upon the surface of which some of these germs will grow most luxuriantly. To start such a “culture,” it is only necessary to transfer, with proper precautions, a minute quantity of the infectious material to the surface of our culture medium, or into a fluid which has been found to be suitable for the growth of the particular organism which we desire to cultivate. A second culture is in the same way started from the first, and so on indefinitely.
Now it is evident that these pure cultures furnish us a ready means for testing the power of various chemical agents to destroy the vitality of known disease germs, as shown by their failure to grow in a suitable culture medium after exposure for a given time to a given percentage of the disinfectant. Very many experiments of this nature have been made. We may say here, that the experimental data on record indicate that those agents which are efficient for the destruction of any one of the pathogenic
organisms upon which experiments have been made, or of harmless species of the same class, are efficient for the destruction of all, in the absence of spores. There is, it is true, within certain limits, a difference in the resisting power of different organisms of this class to chemical agents. This is not, however, sufficiently marked to prevent the general statement that a disinfectant for one is a disinfectant for all, in the absence of spores.
The last clause of the above statement calls for an explanation, and certain details with reference to the mode of reproduction of disease germs. All of the bacteria multiply by binary division; that is, one individual divides into two, and each member of the pair again into two, and so on. The spherical bacteria, known as micrococci, multiply only in this way, but some of the rod-shaped bacteria, or bacilli, also form spores. These spores correspond with the seeds of higher plants. They are highly refractive, oval or spherical bodies, which, under certain circumstances, make their appearance in the interior of the rods, which cease to multiply by binary division when spore formation has taken place. The point of special interest with reference to these spores is, that they have a resisting power to heat, and to the action of chemical disinfectants, far beyond that which is possessed by micrococci, or by bacilli without spores. The
difference may be compared to the difference between a tender plant and its seeds to deleterious influences, such as extremes of heat and cold. Thus the spores of certain species of bacilli withstand a boiling temperature for several hours, while a temperature of 150° Fahr. quickly kills most bacteria in the absence of spores. A similar difference is shown as regards the action of chemical agents. Certain agents,e. g., sulphurous-acid gas and carbolic acid, —which are extensively used as disinfectants, have been proved by exact experiments to be quite impotent for the destruction of spores. This being the case, it is advisable, in practical disinfection, always to use an agent which has the power of destroying spores, in those cases in which the exact nature of the disease germ has not been demonstrated. The cholera germ of Koch does not form spores; and there is good reason to believe that the same is true as regards the germs of yellow fever, of scarlet fever, and of smallpox, which have not yet been demonstrated. This inference is based upon evidence obtained in the practical use of disinfectants, and upon certain facts relating to the propagation of these diseases.
A second general statement, which is justified by the experimental evidence on record, is, that agents which kill bacteria in a certain amount prevent their multiplication in culture fluids, when present in quan
tities considerably less than are required to completely destroy vitality.
An agent, therefore, which in a certain proportion and in a given time acts as a “germicide,” in a smaller quantity may act as an antiseptic-i. e., may prevent putrefactive decomposition by restraining the development of the bacteria of putrefaction. Antiseptics also prevent or retard the development of pathogenic bacteria. It follows from this that germicides are also antiseptics; but the reverse of this proposition is not true as a general statement, for all antiseptics are not germicides. Thus alcohol, common salt, sulphate of iron, and many other substances which are extensively used as antiseptics, have scarcely any germicide power, even in concentrated solutions, and consequently would be entirely unreliable as disinfectants.
Practically, antiseptics may accomplish the same result in the long run as we obtain in a short time by the use of disinfectants. If, for example, we prevent the development of the germs of cholera, or of typhoid fever, in an infected privy vault, by the continued use of antiseptics, these germs will in time lose their ability to grow, when introduced into a suitable culture medium. But in the meantime there is always the possibility that some of them may escape, with the fluid contents of the vault, into the surrounding soil, and contaminate some well or stream from which drinking-water is obtained. For this reason privy vaults, cesspools, and sewers should never be allowed to become infected. All infectious material, such as the dejections of patients with cholera or typhoid fever, should be destroyed at its source, in the sick-room ; or, if it is ascertained that such material has been thrown into a privy vault, the entire contents of the vault should be promptly disinfected. The same rule applies to infectious material thrown upon the ground, or wherever it may be.