Monday, February 21, 2011

Robert Koch and Rinderpest

The German physician and microbiologist Robert Koch is most famous for developing the germ theory of disease and for proposing that ‘one germ causes one disease- every disease has its specific germ’.

Koch and his pupils found the organisms responsible for tuberculosis, anthrax, diphtheria, typhoid, pneumonia, gonorrhoea, cerebrospinal meningitis, leprosy, bubonic plague, tetanus, and syphilis, among others.

In 1896 Koch was brought to South Africa by the Cape Government to investigate and find a cure for cattle plague, or Rinderpest, which had broken out during the last decade of the 19th century. The epidemic affected most of southern African, but it hit the Transvaal and Northern Cape particularly hard.

Although he did not identify the cause of this disease, he succeeded in limiting the outbreak of it by injection into healthy farm-stock of bile taken from the gall bladders of infected animals. He announced the discovery of his vaccine on 10th February 1897.

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