The History of Tuberculosis

Scientists discovered years ago tubercles in mummified bodies, this proving that TB has existed at least since 2000BC. Also, writings of the ancient Egypt, Babylonia and China mention about the existence of TB.

Tuberculosis was named after the Latin word tubercula, first in 1839. tubercula means a small lump, referring to the scars that appear on the infected person's skin.

In the 19th century, tuberculosis reappeared as a pandemic in Europe and US, determining people to research for the causes and possible treatment for TB.

Gaspard Bayle, a French physician described the lesions caused by TB in 900 autopsies.

The evolution of TB from the first tubercle to the final stages was described by René-Théophile-Hyacinthe Laënnec.

An American physicist, Edward Trudeau, was affected twice of tuberculosis, in different years, and he went to the mountain to spend his last days there, because he thought he was going to die. There his symptoms ameliorated and he believed that the fresh air was responsible for his cure. In 1885 he built the first American sanatorium which became a model for the other 600 sanatoriums that were built in America by 1930. After that, Trudeau built the Trudeau Laboratory, which trained doctors in treating tuberculosis.

At first tuberculosis affected artists and morally superior individuals, but as the epidemic was spreading continuously, more and more people got affected including poor and neglected people, and so, TB was thought to be related to a person's lifestyle.

In 1882, Robert Koch, a German physicist discovered the germ that caused tuberculosis and how the disease was transmitted.

In 1924, at the Pasteur Institute, in Paris, Albert Calmette and Camille Guerin used a virulent strain of bovine tubercle bacillus to prepare the BCG vaccine that was discovered to be highly efficient in preventing the disease.

Also, the beginning of modern anti-biotherapy for TB was instituted by Selman Waksman in 1944, when he isolated streptomycin from a fungus. The antibiotic therapy became the primary treatment and so, mortality rates of TB decreed.

In 1904 in US there were188 deaths per 100000 and in 1980 were 1 per 100000.

This improvement lead to a cut in funding public programs for tuberculosis in the 1980's, leading to a small rise of the number of persons affected by TB. After that, TB continued to spread until the governments decided that tuberculosis was still needed to be paid attention, and reimbursed the public programs.