If I could live my life over again, I would devote
it to proving that germs seek their natural
habitat, diseased tissue, rather than being the
cause of the diseased tissue.

Rudolph Virchow (1821-1902)

The long-standing confusion about germs can be understood when it is considered that, even within the restrictions limiting the powers of visual light microscopes (as compared to the electron microscope), there are worlds within worlds, depending on which range of magnification is being explored and whether the design of the microscope permits the study of living tissue (blood and cells) or only that which is dead.

Dr Abraham Baron, B.Sc MSc Ph.D, Professor of bacteriology, biochemistry and physiology at Long Island University 1935-1941, wrote the book Man Against Germs (1958, Robert Hale, London) in which he describes "monomorphically" the different microbes and the diseases associated with them. Then right at the end in the final chapter on Q Fever, to Dr Baron's puzzlement, pleomorphism enters the scene:

"These germs, a new and unusual species of Rickettsia, are extraordinary; they are remarkably adaptable and incredibly vigorous. They can assume any size and any shape, sub-dividing into almost invisible granules as small as the smallest of the viruses, or growing out into large coarse filaments, but in any form their virulence remains undiminished. They can infect any species of animal, animal to man, or man to man. The full account of their potentialities still escapes the formulae of science and medicine. Q Fever is more than just a disease; it is the key to a law of Nature." (author's italics)

Then in his final paragraphs, Professor Baron (without knowing it) described Antoine Bechamp's microzymas, which but for the dogmatism of Pasteur and Koch he would have learned about at medical school instead of at the end of his career:

"Within the protoplasm of our living cells, there is a miscellany of small strange particles that vaguely resemble bits of string, or tiny spheres, or miniature corkscrews. And ever since the microscope was discovered, many generations of scientists have peered and poured over them and disputed their significance. Some claim that these particles in the human protoplasm are extremely important, possessing certain vital (but unspecified) functions, while others believe they are trivial with trivial functions. And still others insist that these particles have no function at all, that they are shadowy "nothings" that exist only in the overwrought imaginings of over-enthusiastic scientists, or as imperfections in their microscopes, their straining eyes or their laboratory technique. Although the embattled scientists agree neither on the status or the functions of these protoplasmic particles, they are compelled to agree at the least on a casus belli, even if only to deny that it exists. The most bitter opponents of their existence must call these strange particles something, and so some of them have been named--centrioles, mitochondria, nucleoli, plastids, vacuoles, inclusions, Golgi network, granules, globules, filaments, fibers, fibrilles, and "ad infinitum".

There are other scientists who study human protoplasm in quite another manner and are completely uninterested in the particles within the human living cells. From their researches on immunity to disease, they have deduced that certain germs (the viruses of poliomyelitis, for example) first infect and cause disease and thereafter never leave the human body. Then the germs no longer cause disease, but they remain alive though inert for a human lifetime.

There is still another school of scientists who probe into the disputed interior of living human cells. They have discovered that they can extract germs from healthy uninfected, undiseased human cells. The germs they extract are alive and will grow on human tissue, but never cause disease. The scientists are convinced that there are always living germs buried deeply within human protoplasm."

And so, more puzzled at the end of his long career than he was as a student, but ever so close to the answer he was seeking, Professor Baron concludes his book:

"If we have correctly interpreted Nature's law, then all our disease germs will change from antagonism to co-existence, and turn from dangerous bits of alien life into inconspicuous particles within our living cells. Perhaps far ahead in the future in a disease-free world, the descendants of germs and men will live together harmoniously in a mingling of protoplasm--a perfect symbiosis of men and germs."

I have included Professor Baron's remarks for two very important reasons. Without realizing it, the professor has illustrated clearly the fundamental errors in thinking that have prevented any worthwhile progress in medicine for over one hundred years:

  1. The unswerving belief in the monomorphic nature of germs despite all the evidence they are polymorphic, a phenomenon witnessed and described by Professor Baron himself.
  2. The belief that germs and viruses are "dangerous bits of alien life" out to harm us.

The professor has indeed correctly interpreted Nature's laws insofar as Nature is desirous that germs and men should co-exist harmoniously, but he fails to realize that to achieve this state of "perfect symbiosis" we do not have to look far ahead into the future at all, because it is available to us right now and always has been. Whether germs behave like dangerous bits of alien life or like inconspicuous particles is entirely up to us and how we choose to look after our milieu interieur.

And in case you think that antibiotics and vaccines offer a way to cheat the system, I suggest that would be as dangerous an error as ever medical science has devised. Nature cannot be fooled, and her justice is uncompromising.