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Pasteur's Infection Theory

  1. Jan 15, 2016 #1
    The whole edifice of Infectious diseases and their treatment lies on Louis's Pasteur's 150-year old theory. His contemporary Antoine Bechamp had entirely opposite ideas. Yet Pasteur prevailed. Though Pasteur's theory holds till now we face inadequacy of it (eg) lull and resurfacing of epidemics, antibiotic resistance, inadequacy of Vaccines etc. Have the scientific community ever done a open-minded soul-searching validating research about this old infection theory.

    What if, the whole theory is untenable?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 15, 2016 #2


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    Then we would have never developed (extremely effective) vaccines, antibiotics, antifungals, death rates from disease would still be near to what they were during the middle ages, smallpox and rinderpest wouldn't be eradicated, millions of children in first world countries would be stricken with polio, measles, mumps, rubella, and a hundred other terrible, scarring, often-fatal illnesses every year, we wouldn't be encountering increasing antibiotic resistance (because antibiotics wouldn't exist), and a great deal of modern medicine would be an utter sham.

    The fact is that the evidence supporting the germ theory of disease is absolutely overwhelming. No, it's beyond overwhelming. The amount of evidence supporting it is so great that I'm not sure there's a word or phrase that can really describe just how well supported the theory is. We have detailed understandings of how almost all forms of infectious diseases (bacteria, viruses, fungi, etc) function, from the molecular machinery which reads DNA and assembles proteins all the way up to the spread of entire pandemics. That's not to say we know everything, merely that we know so much about disease that the idea that germ theory is substantially incorrect is like saying that we don't understand how cars work. While we are still making improvements to the automobile, no one in their right mind could claim that we don't understand how cars work.

    I know of no inadequacy of germ theory. It is just extremely difficult to counteract or outdo the pressure to adapt that evolution places on populations of germs.
  4. Jan 15, 2016 #3

    Thanks for your vouching comments for germ theory. Still I am not convinced.

    We don't know where the Small Pox virus is now. We don't know the germ of Plague now. Are we sure Ebola is eradicated now? If so, are we sure that they will never strike again? We have more diseases now than we had had in the past centuries. Zika, Avian, Swine, Ebola, H1N1, H1N2, H3N1, H3N2, H2N3, H4N6, H9N2, Dengue the list will never end. Volcanoes like diabetes, cardiac diseases and cancers provide us with no escape route. We are more sicker than ever before.

    We find some people get infected by germs and some don't. May be they have more developed immunity. If so, shouldn't we be studying the immune people who haven't got infected. Isn't it worth studying healthy people who were exposed but not infected, such that we can easily combat the disease, rather than studying infected people and trying to eradicate the germs. It is like killing all the ants which invade the place where some sugar is spilled. Isn't it wise to remove the object that causes the ants to come in the first place?

    The huge issue of drug side-effects is easily swept under the carpet. Antibiotic resistance is blamed on abuse of them. But isn't it proved that antibiotic resistance is ancient (Gerard D. Wright of McMaster University in Ontario). Simply it is impossible to eliminate every bacteria/virus from us. Isn't it true that germs outnumber us in our own body cells 10 to 1.

    I plead science rethinks on germ theory anew.
  5. Jan 15, 2016 #4


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    Are you saying that we don't do this currently?
  6. Jan 15, 2016 #5


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    Even though germ theory has its origins in the work of Pasteur and Koch in the 19th century, germ theory has not remained static since their time. Since their time, science has made numerous advances that have modified and refined our understanding of disease (e.g. in Pasteur's time, viruses were unknown). Similarly, even Koch's postulates have had to be modified to account for new diseases. For example, one of Koch's postulates states that disease-causing organisms should be absent from healthy individuals (many are not). Prions are another recent discovery for which we have had to modify our understanding of infectious disease.

    In other words, Pasteur et al. had gotten the big picture correct (microorganisms cause disease), but our understanding of many of the details have evolved over time. If you're arguing against the original formulation of Pasteur's germ theory, you're arguing against a strawman that everyone recognizes has deficiencies. Most of what you discuss is well known among biologists, and is informing current approaches to disease. While most antiviral agents act by targeting the pathogen, there are some efforts to find new drugs that prevent infection by targeting the host factors that the virus requires for replication. Similarly, scientists are exploiting natural immunity to disease in order to develop new treatments. Scientists have identified particular mutations that make individuals immune to HIV and clinical trial are underway to fight HIV by introducing these mutations into a patient's T-cells.
    Last edited: Jan 15, 2016
  7. Jan 15, 2016 #6


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    I do not know where you are now. Does this challenge the theory that humans exist?
    We are sure it is not eradicated.
    We just know them better, and can distinguish between different strains and so on. All the HxNy species are influenza, for example.
    We are healthier than ever before. See life expectancy, child mortality and so on.
    No one tries that.
    Yes. So what?

    Relevant insights article I wrote a few days ago.
  8. Jan 15, 2016 #7


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    Then you would do well to actually look up some information on germ theory and medicine instead of spouting a bunch of incorrect nonsense and claiming you aren't convinced. Since PF exists to teach people about science, not to argue about whether a major modern theory is correct, I am locking this thread.
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