Infectious Diseases - Timeline

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  • Infectious Diseases: Timeline
  • Edward Jenner and vaccination
  • Ignaz Semmelweiss and the spread of infection
  • Louis Pasteur and the germ theory of disease
  • Joseph Lister and antiseptic surgery
  • Alexander Fleming and the discovery of penicillin
  • Recent Events
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Joseph Lister and antiseptic surgery

Joseph Lister was a Scottish surgeon who picked up the work of Louis Pasteur and used it to change the success rates of surgery. In 1865 Lister read about Pasteur's work on how wine went bad because of microorganisms in the air. Lister was convinced that microorganisms in the air were also the cause of the infections which killed up to half of his patients after they had successfully survived surgery. The open wounds made it easy for the germs to get into the body.

Lister had heard that carbolic acid had been used to get rid of a cattle parasite in fields, and to treat sewage. He decided to see if it could also stop wounds becoming infected. He started to clean the wounds of his patients with carbolic acid, and soak the dressings in antiseptic liquid as well. In the years from 1864-66 the death rate for Lister's surgical patients was 45.7%. Between 1867-70, when he introduced his new antiseptic treatment, this fell to 15%

Lister in theatre

Lister in theatre

Lister went on to develop an antiseptic spray which was used in operating theatres during surgery to keep the wound clean. This spray was not used for long though, because carbolic acid actually damages the tissues and breathing it in causes many problems. More successful was the special dressings he developed which contained carbolic acid to keep the wound clean but a barrier to keep it away from the flesh so it didn't cause any damage.

Lister's work revolutionised surgery once his aseptic techniques were accepted. Although the antiseptics and disinfectants used have changed, aseptic surgery is still the basis of saving millions of lives.

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Medicine that acts against bacterial infections. Penicillin is an example of an antibiotic.
Protein that is produced by lymphocytes (white blood cells) and that attaches to a specific antigen.
Molecule on the surface of a pathogen that identifies it as a foreign invader to the immune system.
Single-celled organism. Has a cell wall, cell membrane, cytoplasm. Its DNA is loosely-coiled in the cytoplasm and there is no distinct nucleus.
The use of biological organisms or enzymes to create, break down or transform a material
To cut apart, or separate, tissue especially for anatomical study.
Exponential growth
If something is growing exponentially the larger the quantity gets, the faster it grows
Micro-organism that can grow in long tubes called hyphae or as single cells. Fungi have a nucleus, cytoplasm and a cell wall.
Herd immunity
If a high percentage of a population is immune to a disease the disease cannot be passed on because it cannot find new hosts.
Infection caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). It attacks and destroys the immune system.
Hybridoma cells are formed by fusing a specific antibody-producing cell with a type of cancer cell that grows well in tissue culture
Immune system
The body's natural defence mechanism against infectious diseases.
A process which gives immune resistance to a particular disease. The human or animal is exposed to a harmless antigen in order to raise antibodies and provide an immune memory.
A type of white blood cell that make antibodies to fight off infections.
A type of white blood cell that consumes dead pathogens that have been killed by antibodies.
Organism that feeds off another living host and causes it some damage. An example of a parasite is a tapeworm that lives in the digestive system of a host organism.
A micro-organism that causes disease.
Phagocytes are the white blood cells that protect the body by ingesting harmful foreign particles, bacteria, and dead or dying cells.
A polymer made up of amino acids joined by peptide bonds. The amino acids present and the order in which they occur vary from one protein to another.
Protozoa are one-celled animals
A spore is a reproductive structure that is adapted for dispersal and surviving for extended periods of time in unfavourable conditions.
A poisonous or toxic substance - produced by pathogens.
A small amount of dead or weakened pathogen is introduced into the body. It prepares the immune system to prevent future infections with the live pathogen.
Medicine that contains a dead or weakened pathogen. It stimulates the immune system so that the vaccinated person has an immunity against that particular disease.
The smallest of living organisms. Viruses are made up of a ball of protein that contains a small amount of the virus DNA. They can only reproduce after they have infected a host cell.
World Health Organization.
Chlorinated Lime
A mixture of calcium hydroxide, calcium chloride and calcium hypochlorite.
Free of pathogens. An aseptic technique is one performed under sterile conditions.
A chemical which can destroy microorganisms. Antiseptics are applied to the surface of the skin or to living tissue to reduce the possibility of infection.