The search for the magic bullet.

The history of medicine is littered with men and women who strived to find cures and treatments for the many illnesses and diseases that can afflict the human body. The likes of Louis Pasteur, Alexander Fleming and Marie Curie shows the drive and dedication that is needed to find that one thing that can make all the difference. The search has been likened to finding a magic bullet and it is a term coined by Paul Ehrlich whose work laid down the foundations for much of the modern medicine and treatments we have today.

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By the start of the twentieth century medical science had come on immeasurably in the last century. Doctors and Apothecaries had gone from using the Greek Four humours method (the famous bloodletting treatment) to discovering bacteria and microbes plus, critically, accepting that they were the cause of human illness. However, whilst it was one thing to know the cause it was quite another to find a cure. The use of antiseptics to clean surfaces was established but these could hardly be used internally. What was the solution?

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Enter Ehrlich to the scene. He theorised that there must be a way that microbes could be killed within the body but not at the expense of the body itself. He termed this idea the magic bullet that would just kill the bacteria and nothing else. At the time with the incurable syphilis rife there was a pressing need for a cure. The initial stages of the disease can be quite benign but if untreated the secondary effects can be devastating to the body creating terrible disfigurement and heart problems. So, sexual health was an important issue back then, as it is today and should you need STI Testing London way then it is worth checking out how can help you.

Ehrlich and his colleague Emil Behring decided that if they could add to or boost the body’s immune system it would do the work. In this way the start of immunology was created. Previously the “cure” for Syphilis was regular injections of Mercury over several years which worked but caused all sorts of other issues. Ehrlich used an arsenic compound that was proving to work well against malaria. Ehrlich dismissed the compound after testing it on a syphilitic rabbit however another colleague, Hata, revisited the work and found the rabbit was completely cured after only one treatment.

Ehrlich looked again at the compound testing it on humans with the illness and found they were cured too. They had found the first magic bullet and were named Salvarsan. It became the foremost treatment of the disease until the discovery of Penicillin some 30 years later.

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