The scientific discoveries of Louis Pasteur in the 19th century revolutionized medicine and continue to save millions of lives today

The scientific discoveries of Louis Pasteur in the 19th century revolutionized medicine and continue to save millions of lives today

Some of the greatest scientific discoveries did not result in Nobel Prizes.

Louis Pasteur, who lived from 1822 to 1895, is arguably the world’s most famous microbiologist. He has been widely credited with germ theory And the invention of the pasteurization process – which was named after him – to preserve foods. Significantly, it also evolved rabies And the anthrax Vaccines have made significant contributions to cholera control.

But because he died in 1895, six years before the first Nobel prize Given, this award is not on his resume. Had he lived in the age of Nobel Prizes, he would undoubtedly have deserved one for his work. Nobel Prizes awarded in various fields, Including physiology and medicineIt is not given after his death.

During the current time of constant threats of emergence or re-emergence of infectious diseases, from COVID-19 and polio to monkeypox and rabiesIt’s amazing to look back at the Basseterre legacy. His efforts radically changed people’s view of infectious diseases and how they were combated with vaccines.

I worked in Public health and medical laboratories Specialist in viruses and other microbes Training future medical laboratory scientists. My virology career started with Front row seat for rabies detection and monitoring and zoonoses, based in large part on Pasteur’s pioneering work in microbiology, immunology, and vaccines.

Illustration of Louis Pasteur, right, supervising the administration of a rabies vaccine at the Pasteur Institute in Paris in 1886.
Library of Congress/Temporary Archives via Getty Images

First, chemist

In my estimation, Pasteur’s strongest contributions to science are his remarkable achievements in the field of medical microbiology and immunology. However, his story begins with chemistry.

Pasteur lesson below French chemist Jean Baptiste André Dumas. During that time, Pasteur became interested in the origins of life and worked in the field of Polarized light and crystallography.

In 1848, a few months after receiving his Ph.D., Pasteur was studying the properties of crystals formed in the wine-making process when he discovered that Crystals occur in inverted image forms, a property known as chirality. This discovery became the basis for a subfield of chemistry known as Stereochemistry, which is the study of the spatial arrangement of atoms within molecules. This asymmetry was in the molecules.”revolutionary hypothesis” in time.

These findings led Pasteur to suspect what would later be proven by molecular biology: all life processes ultimately stem from the precise arrangement of atoms within biological molecules.

Wine and beer – from fermentation to germ theory

It was beer and wine crucial to France’s economy Italy in the nineteenth century. It was not uncommon during Pasteur’s life for products to spoil and become bitter or dangerous to drink. At the time, the scientific concept of “spontaneous generation” held that life could arise from inanimate matter, which was thought to be the cause of wine spoiling.

While many scientists have tried to refute the theory of spontaneous generation, in 1745, an English biologist John Torberville Needham It is believed that he created the ideal experiment in favor of spontaneous generation. Most scientists believe that heat kills life, so Needham devised an experiment to show that microorganisms can grow on food, even after boiling. After the chicken broth boiled, he put it in a beaker, heated it, sealed it and waited, not realizing that air could make its way back into the flask before sealing. After some time, the microorganisms grew, and Needham claimed victory.

However, his experience two major defects. First, the boiling time was not enough to kill all the microbes. More importantly, his flasks allowed air to flow again, allowing bacterial contamination.

To settle the scientific battle, the French Academy of Sciences sponsored a competition for the best experiment To prove or disprove spontaneous generation. Pasteur’s response to the competition was a series of experiments, including a 1861 Prize-Winning Essay.

Pasteur considered one of these experiments to be “decisive and decisive” because, unlike Needham, having sterilized his cultures, he kept them free of contamination. Using the now popular swan-necked flasks, which have a long S-shaped neck, allowed air to flow while at the same time preventing dripping particles from getting into the broth while it was heating. As a result, the flask remained growth-free for a long time. This showed that if air was not allowed directly into his boiling batches, no “living microorganisms” would appear, even after months of observation. However, most importantly, if dust was introduced, live microbes appeared.

Through this process, Pasteur not only disproved the spontaneous generation theory, but also showed that microorganisms are ubiquitous. When he showed that food and wine spoiled due to contamination from invisible bacteria and not from spontaneous reproduction, The modern germ theory of disease was born.

Pasteur’s discoveries have resonated to this day.

The genesis of vaccination in the nineteenth century

In the sixties of the nineteenth century, when two diseases destroyed the silk industry infested with silkwormsPasteur Develop intelligent operation Through it, silkworm eggs can be examined under a microscope and kept healthy. Much like his efforts with wine, he was able to apply his observations in industry methods, and become something French champion.

until With deteriorating health From a severe stroke that left him partially paralyzed, Pasteur continued his work. In 1878, he succeeded in identifying and cultivating bacteria It causes bird cholera. He realized that ancient bacterial cultures were no longer harmful and that chickens vaccinated with ancient cultures could survive exposure to wild strains of bacteria. His observation that surviving chickens secrete harmful bacteria helped establish an important concept that is now so familiar in the era of COVID-19 – asymptomatic “health carriers” can still spread germs during outbreaks.

After avian cholera, Pasteur turned to prevention of anthraxIt is a widespread plague that infects livestock and other animals due to bacteria Bacillus anthracis. Based on his own work and the work of the German doctor Robert KochPasteur developed a concept Attenuated or weakened types of microbes For use in vaccines.

In the late 1880s, he demonstrated beyond doubt that exposing cattle to a weakened form of the anthrax vaccine could lead to what is now known as immunity, dramatically reducing livestock mortality.

A computer-generated image of the rabies virus, colored brown in this illustration, resembles a pinecone.
The deadly rabies virus. Although rabies can be prevented by vaccination, it still kills approximately 59,000 people worldwide each year.
Nano/Science Collection Photo Library via Getty Images

Rabies Vaccine Breakthrough

In my professional assessment of Louis Pasteur, the discovery of the rabies vaccination is his most important achievement.

called rabiesThe most diabolical virus in the worldIt spreads from animal to human by bite.

Working with the rabies virus is very dangerous, as Mortality is close to 100% As soon as symptoms appear and without vaccination. Through clever observation, Pasteur discovered that drying the spinal cords of dead rabid rabbits and monkeys resulted in a weakened form of the rabies virus. Using this weakened version as a vaccine to gradually expose dogs to the rabies virus, Pasteur showed that he could effectively immunize dogs against rabies.

Then, in July 1885, Joseph Maestre, a 9-year-old French boy, was badly bitten by a rabid dog. With Joseph facing almost certain death, his mother takes him to Paris to see Pasteur because of I’ve heard He was working on developing a cure for rabies.

Pasteur took over the case and, with two doctors, gave the boy a series of injections over several weeks. Joseph survived and Pasteur shocked the world with a cure for a globally fatal disease. This discovery opened the door to the widespread use of the Pasteur rabies vaccine around 1885, which Significantly reduced rabies mortality in humans and animals.

A life worthy of a Nobel Prize

Pasteur was once famous He said in a lectureIn the fields of observation, chance favors only the ready mind.

Pasteur was gifted in applying his brilliant – and prepared – scientific mind to the most practical dilemmas facing humanity.

While Louis Pasteur died before the Nobel Prize began, I would argue that his incredible life of discovery and contribution to science in medicine, infectious disease, immunization, medical microbiology and immunology places him among the greatest scientists of all time.

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