We have considered how these may be disturbed by microbes from without and from within.
It is, in fact, fully established that these leguminous crops acquire a considerable amount of nitrogen by the fixation of the free nitrogen of the atmosphere under the influence of the symbiotic growth of their root-nodule-microbes and the higher plant.
If this exhalation is stopped or lessened the digestion in its turn is also stopped, the leaf remains longer than usual in the intestines, the microbes multiply, invading the whole body, and this brings about the sudden death which surprises the rearers.
In process of time it became clear, however, that the worse the condition of a filter bed, in the then general acceptation of the term, the better it was as a microbe filter; that is to say, it was not until a fine film of mud and microbes had formed upon the surface of the sand that the best results were obtained.
It is, therefore, seen that at least three different microbes play an important part in the same disease.
When this is healthy the attacks of microbes are resisted, wounds heal readily, and patients recover from serious diseases which in persons of debilitated constitution would prove fatal.
Of late years enormous impulse has been given to our knowledge of the causation of disease by microbes, through the works of Gaspard, who injected putrid matter into the veins of a living animal; by Villemin, who discovered that tuberculosis is infective; by Davaine; and especially by Pasteur, Koch and others too numerous to mention, who have worked, and are still working, at the microbic causation of disease with marvellous success.
The greater the number of leucocytes that can reach the spot where the invading microbes enter the more quickly can the microbes be destroyed and general infection prevented.
The microbes appear in many cases to attract the leucocytes (positive chemiotaxis), but when very virulent they usually repel the leucocytes (negative chemiotaxis) and excrete toxins which kill the leucocytes.
The irritation caused by the microbes generally is followed by dilatation of the vessels of that part and thus more leucocytes are brought up to the fight.
The toxins produced by microbes, if too weak to destroy the leucocytes, induce them to secrete antitoxins, which not only act as antidotes to the toxins and are injurious to the microbes, but also increase the phagocytic power of the leucocytes (opsonius of Wright).
By inoculation with increasing doses of these the resistance of the organism is greatly increased and the invading microbes destroyed.
The vaccine is usually made by sterilizing a virulent culture and the proper dose is ascertained by noting 'the extent to which the power of the leucocytes to envelop and digest the microbes is increased.
After the struggle between the organism and the microbes is over, even when it has ended victoriously for the former, injuries are left behind which require repair.
Poisons formed by microbes are partly eliminated by the kidneys, partly by the mucous membrane of the stomach and intestines, and possibly also by the skin.
One of the influences which is most injurious to the body, and favours most the invasion of microbes, is chill.
Therapeutic measures which are commonly adopted in the treatment of a cold have for their object, to destroy the microbes before they penetrate fairly into the organism, and to restore the balance of the circulation and increase the strength of the invaded parts.
Thus carbolic acid or carbolized ammonia are sniffed into the nose to destroy the microbes there, or the nose is washed out by an antiseptic solution as a nasal douche; bismuth or morphine are insufflated, or zinc ointment is applied, to cover the mucous membrane, and protect it from further irritation; and various antiseptic gargles, paints and powders applied to the pharynx in order to prevent the microbic inflammation from extending to the pharynx and down the trachea and bronchi, for many a severe bronchitis begins first by sneezing and nasal irritation.
The defensive powers of the body against microbes, when actually on or in it, may be classed as means (z) of passive defence, (2) of active defence, and (3) of repair.
Thus if a little diphtheritic sputum were coughed into a person's eye, or some blood containing anthrax bacilli were to touch a raw spot upon the hand, the removal of microbes in either case by washing with simple water might be regarded as a means of passive defence, whilst washing them away with an antiseptic lotion might be regarded as active defence, because the antiseptic would tend not only to remove but to destroy the microbes.
In the same way, washing the skin with spirit would tend to harden the epidermis and thus prevent the entrance of microbes; and the application of an ointment to an abrasion would have a similar action.
The treatment of inflammation of mucous membrane is based upon the same principles as inflammation of the skin, and there too we usually associate means (I) for removing microbes, (2) for destroying them, (3) for lessening the irritation they produce, and (4) for repairing any mischief they have done.
In the stomach we aid the vomiting by which microbes or the products of decomposition of food are usually eliminated by giving to the patient repeated draughts of hot water so as to wash the stomach clean.
What occurs with snake venom takes place also when the toxins are formed by microbes, and a new method of treatment by anti-toxic serums has been introduced of late years with great success.
A similar increase in virulence appears to occur in plague, where animals, especially rats and mice, seem to be affected before human beings, and not only increase the virulence of the microbes, but convey the infection.
To these injurious microbes Metchnikoff has given the name of "wild," and he proposes to restore health by giving "tame" microbes, such as lactic acid bacilli.
Following upon Dr Koch's discovery of a method of isolating bacteria, and of making approximate determinations of their number in any volume of water, a most remarkable diminution in the number of microbes contained in sand-filtered water was observed; and it is now well known that when a properly.
Constructed sand-filter bed is in its best condition, and is worked in the best-known manner, nearly the whole of the microbes existing in the crude water will be arrested.
The sand, which is nominally the filter, has interstices about thirty times as wide as the largest dimensions of the larger microbes; and the reason why these, and, still more, why organisms which were individually invisible under any magnifying power, and could only be detected as colonies, were arrested, was not understood.
The effect is to produce between the sand or other grains a glutinous substance which does the work performed by the mud and microbes upon the surface of the sand filter.
By the use of such tanks, however, when the condition of the water demands it, and by passing the effluent water through sand filters when in good condition, the number of microbes is found to be reduced by as much as 97 or even 99%.
In early inquiries a great point was made of the prevention of putrefaction, and work was done in the way of finding how much of an agent must be added to a given solution, in order that the bacteria accidentally present might not develop. But for various reasons this was an inexact method, and to-day an antiseptic is judged by its effects on pure cultures of definite pathogenic microbes, and on their vegetative and spore forms. Their standardization has been effected in many instances, and a water solution of carbolic acid of a certain fixed 'strength is now taken as the standard with which other antiseptics are compared.
In the mutual behaviour of such cells, toxins, and antitoxins, and again of microbes themselves, we may demonstrate even on the field of the microscope some of the modes of such actions, which seem to partake in great measure at any rate of a chemical quality (agglutinins, coagulins, chemotaxis).
Not only is the influence of bacteria in the causation of many of them newly revealed, but it is now recognized also that, even in skin diseases not initiated by microbic action, microbes play a considerable and often a determining part in their perpetuation; and that the rules of modern aseptic surgery are applicable with no little success to skin therapeutics.
On the skin we have a thick epidermis through which microbes cannot pass, although if an entrance is obtained for them by a prick or cut they may readily grow in the tissues below and spread from them throughout the whole body.
" microbes," " micro-organisms," " microphytes," " bacilli," " micrococci."
Various other microbes are also present in large numbers, but are not believed to be pathogenic or disease-producing in character.
Massart and Bordet, Leber, Metchnikoff and others have studied the phenomenon in leucocytes, with the result that while there is evidence of their being positively chemiotactic to the toxins of many pathogenic microbes, it is also apparent that they are negatively influenced by such substances as lactic acid.