At the recent Medical Congress in London, Professor Klebs undertook to answer the question: "Are there specific organized causes of disease?"

A short historical review of the various opinions of mankind as to the origin of disease led, the speaker thought, to the presumption that these causes were specific and organized.

If we now, he said, consider the present state of this question, the three following points of view present themselves as those from which the subject may be regarded:

I.--We have to inquire whether the lower organisms, which are found in the diseased body, may arise there spontaneously; or whether even they may be regarded as regular constituents of the body.

II.--The morphological relations of these organisms have to be investigated, and their specific nature in the different morbid processes has to be determined.


We have to inquire into their biological relations, their development inside and outside the body, and the conditions under which they are able to penetrate into the body, and there to set up disease.


With regard to the first question, that of the possibility of spontaneous generation, the speaker gave a decided negative.

Second And Third

There is in microscopic organisms a difference of form corresponding, as a rule, to difference of function. The facts regarding these various lower forms are briefly reviewed.

"Three groups of hyphomycetae, algae, and schizomycetae, have been demonstrated to occur in the animal and human organism in infective diseases. Their significance increases with the increase of their capacity for development in the animal body. This depends partly upon their natural or ordinary conditions of life, but partly also, and that in a very high degree, upon their power of adaptation, which, as Darwin has shown, is a property of all living things, and causes the production of new species with new active functions.

"1. The hyphomycetae, on account of their needing an abundant supply of oxygen, give rise to but few morbid processes, and these run their course on the surface of the body, and are hence relatively of less importance. It will be sufficient here to refer to the forms, achorion, trichophyton, oïdium, aspergillus, and the diseases produced by them, favus, ringworm, and thrush, to show this peculiarity. Nevertheless, we see that these organisms also (as was proved by the older observations of Hannover and Zenker) may, under certain circumstances, penetrate into the interior of the organs. Grawitz, moreover, has recently shown that their faculty of penetrating into the interior of the organism, and there undergoing further development, depends on their becoming accustomed to nitrogenous food.

"2. Only one of the algae, viz., leptothrix, has as yet acquired any importance as a producer of disease. It gives rise to the formation of concretions, and that not only in the mouth, but also, as I have shown, in the salivary ducts and urinary bladder.

"Another alga, the sarcina of Goodsir, may indeed pass through the organism, without, however, producing in its passage either direct or indirect disturbances. It seems more worthy of note that many schizomycetae, and especially the group of bacilli, are evidently nearly allied to the algae in their morphological and vegetative relations--so as to be assigned to this class by several authors, and especially by Cienkowski.

"The schizomycetae furnish, without doubt, by far the most numerous group of infective diseases. We distinguish within this group two widely different series of forms, which we will speak of as bacilli and cocco-bacteria respectively. The former, which was first exhaustively described by Ferdinand Cohn, and the pathological importance of which, especially in relation to the splenic disease of cattle, was first shown by Koch, consist of threads, in the interior of which permanent or resting-spores are developed. These spores becoming free, are able, under suitable conditions of life, again to develop into threads. The whole development of these organisms, and especially the formation of spores, is completed on the surface of the fluids, and under the influence of an abundant supply of oxygen.

"The number of affections in which these organisms have been found, and which may be to a certain extent produced artificially by the introduction of these organisms into healthy animal bodies, has been largely increased since the discovery of Koch, that the bacteria of splenic fever (anthrax) belong to this group. Under this head must be placed the bacillus malarise (Klebs and Tommassi-Crudeli), the bacillus typhi abdominalis (Klebs, Ebert), the bacillus typhi exanthematici (Klebs, observations not yet published), the bacillus of hog-cholera (Klein), and, finally the bacillus leprosus (Neisser). It would exceed the time appointed were I to attempt to describe these forms more minutely. This may, perhaps, be better reserved for discussion and demonstration.

"Alongside of these general infective diseases produced by bacilli, local affections also occur, which indicate the presence of these organisms at the point where disease begins. As an example of these processes, which probably occur in various organs, I would mention gastritis bacillaris, of which I shall show you preparations. In this, we can trace the entrance of the bacilli into the peptic glands, as well as their further distribution in the walls of the stomach, and in the vascular system.

"The second group of the pathogenetic schizomycetae I propose to call, with Billroth, cocco-bacteria, because they consist of collections of micrococci, which are capable of transforming themselves into short rods. The former usually form groups united by zoögloea; by prolongation of the cocci rods are formed, which sprout out, break up by division into chains, and further lead again to the formation of resting masses of cocci. I distinguish, further, in this group, two genera--the microsporina and the monadina; in the former of which the micrococci are collected into spherical lumps, in the latter into layers. The one class is developed in artificial cultivation fluid, the other on the surface. The former requires a medium poor in oxygen, the latter a medium rich in oxygen, for their development.

"Among the affections produced by microsporina, I reckon especially the septic processes, and also true diphtheria. On the other hand, to the processes produced by monadina belong especially a large series of diseases, which according to their clinical and anatomical features, may be characterized as inflammatory processes, acute exanthemata, and infective tumors, or leucocytoses. Of inflammatory processes, those belong here which do not generally lead to suppuration, such as rheumatic affections, including the heart, kidney, and liver affections, which accompany this process, sequelae which, as is well known, lead more especially to formation of connective tissue, and not to suppuration. Here, also, belong croupous pneumonia, the allied disease erysipelas, certain puerperal processes, and finally, parotitis epidemica, or mumps.

"Among the acute exanthemata, the following may, up to the present time, be placed in this group; variola-vaccina, scarlatina, and measles.

"The group of infective tumors is represented by tuberculosis, syphilis, and glanders. Throughout the whole group of cocco-bacteria the demonstration of organisms in the diseased parts encounters difficulties which vary considerably in the different kinds."

The speaker concluded by describing the methods (now well known) by which the powers of the different organisms are tested.

He also referred to Pasteur's, Chauveau's, and Toussaint's recent experiments.

His conclusion was that the specific communicable diseases are produced by specific organisms.