The word infection is bandied about by doctors of high and low degree and by laymen as though it were of settled meaning. The word is an old one and is used now with a different meaning than it had a hundred years ago. Medical authors now define it to mean the "invasion of the body" by germs and parasites.
Historically and psychologically the words "possession" and "infection" represent only different rationalizations for the same superstition ; for identical delusional processes, and deluding morbid etiological valuations. The imaginative spirit invasion of the older priests and physicians has become the hypothetical invasion of the body by germs, which now cause "disease." The witches and wizards of old are now exorcisers of germs, bacteria.
Hygienists apply the term to the introduction of decomposing organic matter into the organism. Tilden puts it thus: "all infections--all types of infectious diseases are from one source: protein decomposition. Putrescence means decay of protein. The infective product is the same in grease, foot-and-mouth disease, smallpox, diphtheria, scarlet fever, typhoid fever, and syphilis. Septic infection covers the field, and means putrescence--protein decomposition. The type depends upon the environment and the tissue involved."
The idea of specific infection has no place in a rational philosophy of cause. So-called specific infection is septic infection. Sepsis is the only infecting agent in all the so-called specific diseases. Sepsis arises from decomposition. All secretions, excretions and exudations are non-toxic until they decompose, whereupon they become toxic.
There is no apparent difference in the effects of infection, whether that infection comes from an infected wound, a wound of the womb in childbirth, or abortion, ulceration, an ulcer in typhoid, etc. The only apparent differences are those of degree, and this depends on the condition of the patient, and the amount of septic matter absorbed. Whatever the part that may be played by germs, the constitutional effect is always the same.
The supposition that there are specific diseases caused by specific infections arises from the fact that every organ or tissue in the body lends its own individuality to "disease" processes. We do not expect to find identical symptoms in "disease" of two totally different parts of the organism. "Disease" of the lungs would present symptoms which differ from some of the symptoms of "disease" of the liver or bowels. However, inflammation is always the same in whatever organ or part it is located. And any inflammation in any part of the organism will, if great enough, occasion systemic sympathy--fever and general nutritive disturbances.
So-called specific infections are limited in their operations to particular parts of the body, and when these parts are barred against their action, there is no development of the supposed specific "disease." Where the parts are susceptible to the action of the infectious matter, the effect or injury that will be produced by a given amount of virus of a definite virulence or toxicity, will depend on the vitality of the parts, and the circumstances under which it acts. Some men are naturally and habitually invulnerable to infection, while others are proof against its action at one time and liable to be affected by it at another. Resistance depends on an abundance of nerve force and normal secretions.
A simple infection arises from any injury or non-toxic irritation. This quickly heals, if the cause is removed. However, such an infection can easily be forced to take on sepsis if the cause is not removed and strict cleanliness observed. A thickening of the mucous membrane and ulceration will result. After this has taken place, if the exudate cannot drain away fully and freely, it will undergo decomposition, resulting in local septic infection. If drainage is not established there is then a possibility of systemic septicemia.
Infection or sepsis is generated by the decomposition--fermentation and putrefaction--of dead animal and vegetable substances and secretions. We hold to the theory of the Unity of Infection. Infection is due to the absorption of decaying animal or vegetable matter and is always the same in whatever part of the body it takes place. A specific infection is not more nor less than a septic infection. Contact with putrescent discharge is essential. This is primarily a skin infection and does not menace life. However, should blood infection be forced, then life is endangered.
The differences in the various septic substances, that is the differing degrees of toxicity, are derived from the chemistry of the substances from which they are derived and the stages of decomposition in which they are found. As an example of the unity of infection, smallpox vaccination serves admirably. It is sterilized pus, that is, pus which has had all germ life therein destroyed, yet it is admitted by its advocates to be frequently responsible for general vaccinia, cellulitis, septicemia, urticaria, erysipelas, so-called syphilis, tuberculosis, lock-jaw, menengitis, sleeping sickness, and many other conditions. Yet it is always septic pus from a cow.
It requires positive contact with, and absorption of septic or putrescent matter to result in infection. Medical men define infection as the invasion of the body by disease germs. But, as Tilden declares: "It should not be forgotten that unobstructed free drainage from wounds, ulcers, canals, ducts, keeps them aseptic (non-poisonous). The deadly germ on the hands, lips, drinking cups, hanging straps of street cars-- in fact, found anywhere and everywhere--is not deadly until it gets mixed up with man's deadly, dirty, filthy physical and mental habits." Germs do not become toxic until they get into a toxic environment.
Sepsis in the intestines may give rise to cholera infantum, typhoid fever, pneumonia, diphtheria, menengitis, inflammation of the brain, peritonitis, appendicitis, or other infections, all depending on the virulence (chemistry) of the toxins present and the systemic and organic resistance offered to it. Intestinal toxemia is correctly considered as an infection. So, also, is organic toxemia and vaccine and serum poisoning. The phenomena of anaphylaxis, which follow serum injections, may manifest in a very extensive variety of "diseases," ranging from aching in the joints with slight fever, to tetanus, convulsions and immediate death. Usually several forms of "disease" are present together as a result of serum inoculation.
The conservative power of the body limits all infections, as long as possible, to the lymphatic glands. These glands possess more immunizing power than ordinary tissue. The spread" of all infections is along the lymphatic channels; but where lymphatic restraint is broken or overwhelmed, all the fluids of the body become infected and death may follow quickly. The lymph nodes in the groin, for instance, arrest so-called venereal infection and hold it up long enough to neutralize and destroy it. If the amount of infection is great and the immunizing power of the glands is inadequate, suppuration follows and a heavy pus discharge carries the infection out of the body. If toxin infection in the lungs is great enough to cause suppuration of the lymphatic glands in these, the resulting "disease" is called tuberculosis.
Our view is that local infections--tonsillitis, rheumatism, chorea (St. Vitus dance), and heart "diseases,"--all spring from a common root and soil; and that root is enervation, and the soil is toxemia, to which is superadded intestinal putrescence. These "diseases" may be consecutive; one may follow the other in point of time in any conceivable order, and so be mistaken for cause; but one is not the cause of the other. They represent concomitant and successive developments out of a common cause.
Before a morbid process can evolve, the power of the part or of the body as a whole to generate its own immunizing agents must be broken down or overwhelmed. The reason two people similarly infected do not suffer alike, is that the one is more enervated and toxemic than the other and hence has less resistance; less self-immunizing power. Immunizing power has nothing to do with muscular strength. One patient has a mass of putrefying food stuff in his intestine and has diarrhea. Another has a similar mass and develops typhoid. In. the first, the powers of resistance were sufficient to resist infection, and the decaying matter was expelled. In the second there was low resistance which permitted infection.
Sepsis is often generated in the intestine, in the uterus, under a tight prepuce, etc. Lack of drainage, uncleanliness, etc., account for this. The disease resulting therefrom will depend upon the structures involved. Its severity will depend on the amount of septic matter absorbed, the condition of the patient and the aid or interference that the organism is given.
In septic infection, if proper drainage is established and the exudate washed away--this is, if cleanliness is observed--the primary infection will end within a few days. However, if drainage and cleanliness are neglected, reinfection will take place. General septic infection may follow.
The healthy individual, and by this we mean one who possesses real health, not merely one who conforms to the conventional health standard, easily resists infection where it is not so great as to completely overpower the organism at once.
When toxemia has brought about a chemical change in the tissues of the body--when a favorable habitat is produced by enervation and toxemia--germs, which are omnipresent, become an auxiliary cause, but never a primary one. Add to the state of nerve depletion and toxemia an intestinal decomposition that is in keeping, and you have a walking cesspool too vile for the ubiquitious germ to respect. Checked secretion produces infection, just as checked excretion produced toxemia.
A properly cared for body is fully resistant to internal and external germs; but infection can develop in those of full health, if injuries do not drain well. When the enervated and toxemic have the infection of intestinal putrescence added, we have so-called germ invasion. Children who develop menengitis, or any of the other so-called contagious diseases, must be autotoxemic from improper food and improper care of the body; and, to bring about an epidemic, there must be an atmospheric state-- domestic, civic, or general--that intensifies the already large stock of enervation.
A leading medical authority declares "disease is contagious and some people will be sick in spite of their best efforts to stay well." We answer: "Not if they have any real knowledge of how."
Many people who are apparently healthy are in reality "living sepulchers"--so completely enervated and so thoroughly toxemic that it requires just a little added enervating influence--cold, heat, the mental depression of bad news, a heavy meal, the shock of a slight operation--to send them pell-mell into eternity. Popularly and professionally, if a man appears well and feels well, this is enough. No matter if he is on the brink of the grave, his most vital organs so impaired and deficient in vital power that as soon as they begin to falter the whole system is broken up and life becomes extinct.
What have germs to do under such circumstances as these? The people who die in this manner are usually the apparently healthy--the "pictures of health"--those big feeders with wonderful appetites, with full red faces, well-rounded abdomens, and excessive weight and who are commonly thought to be in the "pink" of condition.
The cause of this sudden death is not in having been attacked nor overwhelmed by virulent germs, or by germs in large quantity, but is due to living a life of bad habits in such a way, and by transgressing every physiological law to such an extent, that their resistance has been reduced to a minimum. They die because they have destroyed their power to live.