It has long been observed that intemperance renders the tissues vulnerable to disease, that in the sot wounds are apt to fester, that he is not only more liable than his temperate brother to contract pneumonia, but to die if he does contract it, and that gonorrhoea is aggravated by even moderate quantities of alcohol.
Such facts as these we now explain by saying that alcohol, when taken in excess, weakens the natural defences of the body against certain bacteria. This is now known to be true of a large number of microbic affections, foremost among which is tuberculosis, and recent researches further show that cancer - also possibly parasitic in natures - is more common among the drunken than the sober; again, it has been experimentally demonstrated that alcohol weakens the defences against the microbes of hydrophobia, tetanus, and anthrax. So greatly, indeed, do even small doses interfere with the process of immunisation against hydrophobia that it has been advised to forbid its use by patients while undergoing immunising treatment against this disease and for some time after.
This disarmament of the body by alcohol must not be forgotten in our treatment of the specific fevers, though doubtless alcohol is much more rapidly burnt off during fever than otherwise. Not only does the drunkard offer a subnormal resistance to the microbic battalions, but he is placed at a great disadvantage by reason of the degenerated condition of his heart: even a sound heart is sorely taxed in battling through a severe fever; one which enters upon the struggle in a state of advanced fatty degeneration has small chance of emerging successful.