Talk:Germ theory of disease

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Dr Ignaz Semmelweis[edit]

20 Jan 2008

Does Doctor Ignaz Semmelweis not deserve a mention here? See his wiki entry

Yes, that was going to be my point also. Surely he deserves a mention here. I am not a medical person; perhaps someone who is would like to write it up. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:44, 30 March 2008 (UTC)

Semmelweis' observations went against all established scientific medical opinion of the time.

I copied that from the good doctor's wiki entry because it pertains to the controversy, below, as to what constitutes a theory. His wiki entry also notes that he called his peers murderers, was confined to a mental hospital, and likely beaten to death by a guard. Thankfully, we editors are not that extreme. Pawyilee (talk) 13:37, 7 November 2008 (UTC)


8 oct 2008

Who, what, when, where and why. It's very simple.It is still unknown by everyone on earth. -Unknown

Inclusion of germ theory of sexuality[edit]

I question the inclusion of the section on germ theory of sexuality. I've not read of any scientific consensus on that point - indeed the article makes a mention of that. There are better examples of evidence for germ theory than this - we should devote time and space to them and relegate this section to a separate article or delete it entirely. The article mentions ulcers, yet spends relatively few words while this section is greatly overrepresented for the amount of backing it receives from the scientific community.@unknown@


What's this for? I never heard this theory called "speculation" before:

The germ theory of disease, also called the pathogenic theory of disease, is speculation that instead of genetics being the proximal cause of many diseases that the environment plays a significant factor in the form of pathogenic microorganisms such as bacteria or viruses.

Isn't it a scientific fact that germs can cause disease? I mean, if you drink water containing too much of a certain bacteria E. coli, don't you usually get sick?

Aren't there thousands of diseases which are known to medical science as being caused by bacteria or viruses? They check your blood for traces of these germs (or antibodies your body generates to fight them) when diagnosing the disease. I thought this was common knowledge. Uncle Ed 14:37, 5 October 2005 (UTC)

Germ Theory isn't proven. That's why it has "theory" in it. The truth is, that even though we can speculate and observe and make educated guesses, we really haven't ever actually seen a germ cause a disease. Certainly there is cause to believe this theory and I certainly wouldn't want a doctor who completely threw it out the window. But you should not really take offense that it is called speculation. That's what it is. There's nothing wrong with that. The thing that makes science so revolutionary is that a good scientist (and I'll admit, there are plenty of bad scientists) is always the first to admit that he's just speculating. It's the best guess we have at the time. What else can you ask for? - Kuzain 05:32, 13 February 2006 (UTC)
That is rubbish. We have. See Robert Koch - Koch's postulates have been fullfilled for many diseases, including Helicobacter Pylori. Midgley 05:05, 15 February 2006 (UTC)
Hey hey. Watch out on this one. You have to be careful with use of theory. A theory must be empirically proven (and all the evidence is leading to this with Germ Theory), but a hypothesis would be more accurate for Kuzain's point - something that has not been proven. See articles such as Evolution (but beware of the trolls) and Theory for further discussion on the subject. In the mean time, I am sure that theory is perfectly accurate in its usual semantic sense in this article. Ck lostsword|queta! 19:17, 16 February 2006 (UTC)

This is a debate on terminology primarily, and is largely couched in a question of how scientific method actually works. We cannot necessarily prove theories, but we can disprove explanations by showing predictions made by the theory that don't pan out. For this reason, scientific progress is based on observing a phenomenon, coming up with all possible explanations, and trying to disprove them till you have the one that seems to fit the best. Unless you can actually observe a process happening, the mechanism of that process remains theoretical. Thus ideas such as gravity remain a theory- we can observe massive bodies moving closer together and take that as our observation, but we can't observe the forces that make that happen. Our explanations for how this happnes are quite effective, but unless we observe actual gravitons, we can't consider the theory proved. For this reason, most scientific explanations must referred to as "theories." They are not proven, but all other explanations for the phenomenon have been disproven, making the theory as close to proven as possible. Calling it a theory recognizes that we could observe something later that changes our explanation. Many scientific theories seem to be so accurate that they end up being referred to as laws, but rigorously should be referred to as theories. Germ theory is one of these- few would debate that germs cause disease, but failing to recognize that it is a theory is a lazy use of scientific terms that twists the truth regarding the status of the explanation. A good basic on text on this is Stephen Jay Gould's article, "What is Science." I believe that article is in "Ever Since Darwin."

Fresh start[edit]

If nobody else fixes this, I'm going to blank the page and give it a fresh start. The germ theory of disease is not a "speculation". It is accepted medical fact. It applies to countless numbers of contagious diseases, notably typhoid fever (remember Typhoid Mary?); malaria (transmitted by mosquitoes in the tropics); several venereal diseases; tuberculosis, and a whole bunch of diseases that people get quarantined for. Uncle Ed 17:00, 6 October 2005 (UTC)

Hi! Thanks for pushing for action on this. I'd agree this article is pretty weak. Personally I'd avoid blanking and push things forward through a series of edits, but I think the outcome would be the same. Would it be sufficient to remove everything except the history section and add a new intro? After further thought, the intro was too ugly to leave. I have replaced it with something hopefully uncontroversial. Ed, feel free to edit or replace as inspiration takes you. --William Pietri 16:27, 19 October 2005 (UTC)
"Speculation" connotes the idea that the theory is unsupported by evidence, so in that sense the word choice may be a little harsh. Essentially, however, a theory cannot be proven. Right now there's vast evidence supporting germ theory much like there's vast evidence supporting gravity, but that doesn't mean that later some other evidence won't disprove it. So in that sense, "speculation" confers the idea that germ theory doesn't have to be true, even if it currently appears to be the most logical explanation for the spread of disease.
I responded above, but I'll add to this as well. "Speculation" has certain connotations within our society, it's true but those connotations are often incorrect. Germ Theory is speculation. It is not fact and no scientist could say it was and still call himself a scientist. - Kuzain 05:33, 13 February 2006 (UTC)

'Disputed' tag[edit]

Maybe I'm missing something but why is this article tagged as disputed? There does not seem to be much to indicate in the main article or on this talk page. This is a pretty important topic and I'd like to see it fleshed out more and the dispute tag removed, but could someone indicate why it is there? Maybe someone who opposes something thats written now? Thanks -Sajendra 23:56, 17 December 2005 (UTC)

I would have to agree. If someone wants to argue about the sexuality bit, I might see- except it is simply stating that this is something which has been proposed to be explained by germ theory. Whether one agrees with it or not is not the point- the point is rather that it is a theory that people have consitered. Of course, I've never actually heard of this theory, and would be curious to see evidence of it as a genuine theory, and not someone's personal thoughts. Even the wikipedia article linked calls it a "speculative hypothesis." So far as I am concerned, a speculative hypothesis is NOT a theory. If it is a theory, I don't see a problem with mentioning it. If it is only speculative, I don't see why it ought to be mentioned in this article. -Broklynite 19:28, 20 December 2005 (UTC)

Ok, I went ahead and removed the disputed tag since nobody actually seems to be disputing. I have a feeling perhaps they disagree with the sexuality bit, which I do find sketchy, but it does not seem that anyone disputes the germ theory of disease. -Sajendra 08:04, 21 December 2005 (UTC)


"List of pathogenic / microorganism theories:

Physicist Gregory Cochran has advocated a number of pathogenic theories of disease including one for homosexuality, concluding that this is a "feasible hypothesis"; however, he does not assert that there is sufficient evidence to show that it is factually correct. As of 2005, no experiments or studies have yet been attempted. At present, it is a speculative hypothesis.

  • Rossignol's challenge to Pasteur

Need to mention: "Whatever Rossignol's challenge was, if we hear something about it we can then mention it - "need to mention" is talk page if ever anything was.

For the rest, the germ theory of disease is not a list of diseases with the germs that cause them, nor a list of diseases for which a germ is not known nor infection demonstrated. (as an aside: if there is an infectious agent in Schizophrenia it is more likely to be a meme complex than a viral or bacterial informational vector, I think)

As for physicists speculating on a hypothesis, leave it out... when an experiment is run lets look at it. If those thoughts belong anywhere in WP, it is as the smallest of footnotes in teh articles on those diseases, conditions and habits. The germ theory is not a big thing, it needs a short article, free of wild speculation WP:NOR about other things. Midgley 18:04, 11 March 2006 (UTC)

Article needs[edit]

References, and I think still a little tightening up. Midgley 15:29, 12 March 2006 (UTC)

Nice links that man. Midgley 20:36, 28 March 2006 (UTC)

History of science?[edit]

Should not this article have this "{ {histOfScience} }" ? --Extremophile 14:41, 25 April 2006 (UTC)

Redi and some other troubles[edit]

This abiogenesis area is a bit troublesome. Although people like Pasteur did defend the germ theory of diesease, they also defended things that today are commonly put under the label of abiogenesis or spontaneous generation, such as speculations on the origins of parasitic worms. Pasteur himself believed that parasitic worms were not a species of its own, but rather something formed from a person´s tissue, like a cancer that develops into an autonomous organism. That was called heterogenesis, commonly mistaken by abiogenesis or spontaneous generation, and despite of not being exactly so, it is still not germ theory of disease. Redi himself also did not discarded heterogenesis, even though he thought that maggots in meat came from eggs laid there, he did not applied the same logic with gall insects, which he thought that were really produced by the plant. Other possibility, since these things are commonly labeled as abiogenesis despite of their actual definitions, was that Pasteur defended xenogenesis of parasitic worms, which I do not really know of, but then that would be the "origin" by a parasitic by infection.

Additionally, I think that Redi being mentioned after Pasteur, introducing the paragraph with "talian physician Francesco Redi provided further proof against..." suggests that it occurred after Pasteur, since otherwise the article follows the history chronologically. I suggest to label it asking for review and sources...--Extremophile 14:05, 8 May 2006 (UTC)

Varro, etc.[edit]

I think that the Varro quote ("there are bred certain minute creatures") is very weak as a reference to spontaneous generation. It reads better as an early germ hypothesis. And I'm adding a criticism section.Ethan Mitchell 23:09, 16 May 2006 (UTC)

Alternative medicinal approaches[edit]

I'm interested in collecting alternative approaches to medical treatment. Obviously, germ theory is indisputable science. Basically, I refer to vitalism and the approach that disease be cured through the body's immune system defences being enhanced rather than through avoiding them or through using drugs. I think germ theory is a more important aspect of treatment (since vitalism is unscientific in assuming the body somehow has an inherant ability to fight every single form of disease and that health is somehow a default state), but that a vitalistic APPROACH holds promise as complementary view in promoting immune system enhancement. The human immune system risks not evolving to keep up with germs since natural selection is weakened by medicine. Things like vaccines I would actually hold to be vitalistic. While they are drugs, the drugs are not killing the organisms directly, but rather enhancing the body's natural ability to recognize (so they can kill) the organisms. Other approaches like nutrition and exercise are similarly vitalistic preventative measures. Tyciol 18:14, 2 November 2006 (UTC)

Why was this blanked?[edit]

I have seen better pages, I have seen worse. Paul, in Saudi 16:25, 27 March 2007 (UTC)

This one could use a lot of work. Like ... sources? Buffon's role as a leading proponent of spontaneous generation? --Christofurio 14:07, 14 July 2007 (UTC)

Fictitious Claims[edit]

The opening of this article claims that the germ theory of disease led to hygienic practices and the use of antibiotics. When I read the article on hygiene it clearly states several examples of strict codes of hygiene that were adhered to over long periods of time throughout large civilizations millenia prior to the germ theory of disease. Further, the article on antibiotics clearly states that the first deliberate use of antibiotics in medicine was by the Chinese 2500 years ago - again; long before the germ theory of disease. Either the claims in those two articles are fictitious or the claim in this article attributing these practices to germ theory is. Whatever the case, an expert on the issue should either clarify the claim here or remove it completely. I will mark it with a request for citation. Anon. 12 October 2007 —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 15:45, 12 October 2007 (UTC)

The claim is not fictitious, but historically accurate, if incomplete. I propose adding, "in Western medical practice" unless some other editor can word it better. Religious hysteria directed towards Jews caused a severe disruption among Western Christians with hygienic practices of the past. This included rejection of many so-called "pagan" practices, which were also hygienic in a folk-medicine, practical way, even if the underlying principles were misunderstood.

Apollo is the immediate and unseen cause, the magical agent, linking Chryses' curse with the deaths of the Achaeans from pestilence. The deaths are not accidental or coincidental. There's an explanation, even though it involves an invisible agency in which imaginative belief is required. Explanation is critically important because it allows the possibility of cure.
Science clearly has a more powerful explanation for this disease today, but the Homeric explanation may have been useful in its day. In Homer, plague can be controlled through appropriate worship of Apollo, which includes not simply ritual songs but important ritual acts that are remembered in the songs: washing, removal of all wastes, and burning of disease victims. In ancient times, these rituals could have been effective means to stop the spread of epidemics. (Medieval approaches, many centuries later, had forgotten not only Apollo but the basic ritual acts of plague control. The Pied Piper is supposed to remove rats through music alone.)

magic words in the Iliad

See also Contemporary_reaction_to_Ignaz_Semmelweis, who was self-evidently correct about hygiene from our POV, but was self-deluded according to his contemporaries, who did wash their hands (which is sufficient in most cases,) but nothing like the ritualistic scrub surgeons employ today. I hope, however, someone can come up with something better than "in Western medical practice." Pawyilee (talk) 14:25, 7 November 2008 (UTC)


What's with this paragraph?

Microorganisms were first directly observed by Anton van Leeuwenhoek, who is considered the father of microbiology. Ignaz Semmelweis was a Hungarian obstetrician working at Vienna's Allgemeines Krankenhaus in 1847, when he noticed the dramatically high incidence of death from puerperal fever among women who delivered at the hospital with the help of the doctors and medical students. Births attended by the midwives were relatively safe. Investigating further, Semmelweis made the connection between puerperal fever and examinations of delivering women by doctors, and further realized that these physicians had usually come directly from autopsies. Asserting that puerperal fever was a contagious disease and that matter from autopsies were implicated in its development, Semmelweis made doctors wash their hands with water and lime before examining pregnant women, thereby reducing mortality from childbirth to less than 2% at his hospital. Nevertheless, he and his theories were viciously attacked by most of the Viennese medical establishment.

For one, the first sentence mentions Leeuwenhoek but the rest of the paragraph is about Semmelweis. This is very poor structure. Not only that, but the information regarding Semmelweis fails to clarify that its major contribution to the article is the fact that Semmelweis' work set precedents for that of Louis Pasteur - who is not only credited with "discovering" the germ theory of disease but is also shockingly absent from the article entirely. Anyone moderating might want to consider altering this.

--Chinagreenelvis (talk) 22:59, 21 February 2009 (UTC)

Felix Platter: the founder of modern germ theory[edit]

"Nardi, as it happens, does not mention Fracastoro. His authority (apart from Lucretius himself) is Felix Platter. Platter, in his De Febribus (1597) ... had explicitly rejected arguments for the spontaneous generation of plague and syphilis, since these could not account for the fact that these were new diseases -- if they could be spontaneously generated they would have arisen over and over again. ... He thus carefully propounds the theory that these diseases are spread by seeds or germs [in Latin: "semen" -- wrongly understood not as "germs", but as "seminal fluid" after Platter and until Bassi] ... Platter is thus a proper germ theorist, the earliest known to me" (David Wootton, 2006: Bad Medicine - Doctors doing harm since Hippocrates, p. 127). —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 18:45, 20 February 2011 (UTC)

I removed tags[edit]

If there are specific statements that stand out as needing sources, please tag the specific text with citation needed, per WP:CHEAT. Biosthmors (talk) 18:25, 3 December 2012 (UTC)

I left the tag for lede too short. --Harizotoh9 (talk) 08:58, 5 December 2012 (UTC)