Gautier, to whom much of our knowledge regarding alkaloids produced by albuminous decomposition is due, has given the name of leucomaines to alkaloids which are not produced by putrefaction due to bacteria, but are formed by the decomposition of albuminous matters in the normal processes of waste in the living animal tissues. Amongst these he reckons various substances formed in muscles and allied to xanthine and creatine.2

Brieger has shown that during the digestion of fibrin by pepsin an alkaloid has been formed, to which he gives the name of peptotoxin.

Absorption And Elimination Of Ptomaines And Leucomaines

It is probable that a considerable production of alkaloids takes place in the intestine, both when the digestive processes are normal and more especially when they are disordered; at the same time alkaloids are being formed in the muscles, and possibly also in other tissues. Were all the alkaloids to be retained in the body, poisoning would undoubtedly ensue, and Bouchard considers that the alkaloids formed in the intestine of a healthy man in twenty-four hours would be sufficient to kill him if they were all absorbed and excretion stopped. He finds that the poisonous activity of even healthy human faeces is very great, and a substance obtained from them by dialysis produced violent convulsions in rabbits. When the functions of the kidney are impaired, so that excretion is stopped, uraemia occurs, and Bouchard would give the name of stercoraemia to this condition, because he believes it to be due to alkaloids absorbed from the intestines. He also thinks that the nervous disturbance which occurs in cases of dyspepsia is due to poisoning by ptomaines. That alkaloids are excreted by the urine has been shown by Bocci, who has found in the urine a substance having an action like that of curare.

1 Les Ptomaines, Turin, 1883.

2 Sur les alcaloides derives de la destruction bacterienne ou physiologique des tissus animaux. Paris : G. Masson. 1886.

Effect of Drugs on the Action of Bacteria in the Animal Body.

So long as bacteria are outside the body, we may use drugs of any strength we please to destroy them, but the case is quite different when they have once gained entrance and are no longer outside but inside the body, because then the nature of the drug and the amount we can employ is limited by its effect on the organism itself, and we cannot administer very large doses of antiseptics lest we should injure or kill the patient at the same time that we destroy the bacteria which are causing the disease. All that we can hope to do is to turn the scale, if possible, in favour of the organism in the struggle for existence between the cells which compose it and the bacteria which have invaded it (vide pp. 86 and 89).

Our hope of doing this rests on the fact that drugs which may be injurious both to the tissue and to the bacteria are not equally so to each. Thus excess of temperature is injurious to the organism, but it is also destructive to bacteria; and, as Fokker 1 has pointed out, the febrile reaction which occurs on the introduction of bacteria into the blood may be a means of destroying the microbes and preserving the animal. There is often a germ of truth in apparently foolish plans of treatment, and the old practice of treating scarlet fever, small-pox, and measles by warm drinks, hot rooms, and abundant clothing may have been a blind effort to aid the natural processes of cure, just as the irritating ointment of the Middle Ages seems to have been an attempt at antiseptic surgery. The extraordinary destructive power of corrosive sublimate, and the fact that it continues to act in blood-serum just as it does in distilled water, seem to indicate that it might be used to destroy bacilli in the body, especially as Schlesinger has found that it may be injected subcutaneously into rabbits and dogs daily for several months without doing them any harm, even in doses of 5 milligrammes, 1 cc. of a 1/2 per cent. solution. Koch's experiments on this point, by the administration of sublimate after inoculation with anthrax, led to a negative result, the animals inoculated with anthrax dying of the disease, notwithstanding the injection of the sublimate. On the other hand, Cash has succeeded in preventing death from anthrax by administering corrosive sublimate for some time previous to inoculation (p. 97).

The extraordinary effect of allyl alcohol, and the less power1 International Medical Congress, 1881.

ful but still great action of ethereal oils, indicate, however, that we may look forward with hope to the discovery of some organic substances which may so hinder the development of bacteria in the body after their inoculation, as to allow of their gradual destruction in the organism, and prevent the sickness or death which they would otherwise have occasioned.

In relation to this, the observations of the late Dr. W. Farr in his Report are very interesting: 'Alcohol appears to arrest the action of zymotic diseases, as it prevents weak wines from fermenting; like camphor, alcohol preserves animal matter - this is not now disputed. But may it not do more? May it not prevent the infection of some kinds of zymotic disease ?'

Experiments have shown that alcohol itself has but a slight power in destroying bacilli, but it is possible that even the slight traces of the ethers which are present in wine or spirits may have some beneficial action in cases of septic poisoning.