Of such are tetanus and diphtheria, now known to be due to the establishment from without of a local microbic infection, from which focus a toxin is diffused to the nervous matter.
The terrible nervous sequels of some forms of inflammation of the membranes of the brain, again, are due primarily to microbic invasion rather of the membranes than of their nervous contents; and many other diseases may be added to this list.
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.
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.
Moreover, the products of microbic secretion tend to produce fever.
Even what are known as common colds are probably due chiefly to microbic infection aided by a chill, just as in the case of pneumonia.
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 explanation that this influence on the leucocytes explained the favourable action of quinine on certain inflammatory processes no longer holds, since we know that the inflammatory conditions are of microbic origin, and that the movements of the leucocytes are not objectionable, but highly desirable as a means of defence against bacteria and their products.