This postface consists of a note read by Professor Bechamp before the Academy of Medicine on the 3rd of May, 1870. It establishes an important date in the history of science during the last three decades of the last century. The microbian doctrines were not yet imagined; nor were they, till several years after, as a result of the plagiarizing of the microzymian theory.
THE MICROZYMAS, PATHOLOGY AND THERAPEUTICS.
Chauffard has recently published an important work on the treatment of smallpox by carbolic acid. His conclusions interest me greatly, and I desired to make the matter clear to the Academy. In a note which appeared in the Transactions of the Academy of Sciences (Vol LXVI, p.366), I said, in reference to a note of Chauveau on the molecular granulations of the vaccine virus:
"From the study and meaning of the molecular granulations which are born or act in certain fermentations and which I have named microzymas, to the study and meaning of those which exist normally in all the tissues of organized beings, and also in the cellules of those tissues, was natural. My satisfaction, then, was extreme when I saw Chauveau enter upon this path, and, from another point of view, confirm the observations made in the laboratory of the chemist. I said from another point of view; I was wrong, because from the physiological point of view where I had placed myself and whence I studied what is called fermentation, the experiments of Chauveau, on the molecular granulations of the vaccine virus, are closely connected with mine. I place the molecular granulations in solutions of simple organic matters; Chauveau in the organic and organized matters of living beings."
From a time long ago certain diseases have been compared to fermentations. We may go back to Stahl and Willis and probably still earlier for this, though that is not important, for, as was remarked by Babinet, "Antiquity has told everything; when it told truly, it was simply a wonderful accident, and it proved nothing."
My researches upon fermentations and ferments, particularly upon molecular granulations, date back some fifteen years, and those which Professor Estor and I conducted for the purpose of generalizing my earlier observations have led to this result: that the animal is reducible to the microzyma. But the microzyma, whatever its origin, is a ferment; it is organized, it is living, capable of multiplying, of becoming diseased and of communicating disease.
All microzymas are ferments of the same order - that is to say, they are organisms, able to produce alcohol, acetic acid, lactic acid and butyric acid.
In a state of health the microzymas of the organism act harmoniously, and our life is, in every meaning of the word, a regular fermentation. In a state of disease, the microzymas do not act harmoniously, and the fermentation is disturbed; the microzymas have either changed their function or are placed in an abnormal situation by some modification of the medium. This was what I tried to make clear by a positive example of a kind which would leave no room for misunderstanding either the extent or the bearings of the conclusion.
The harmonious function of a bird's egg is to produce a bird. During incubation the chemical acts which are accomplished within it result in the transformation of the materials of the yolk and the white into the various chemical compounds which will form the various organs of the complete animal.
While these chemical acts are being accomplished, no gases other than the normal gases of respiration are set free. But, if that which will be the embryo is abstracted from the egg, it contains nothing organized but the microzymas. That which will be the embryo is itself, at first, only a collection of microzymas. From the chemical point of view, everything within the egg is the work of the microzymas.
What will happen if in the egg we proceed to mix up those elements within the egg which were not destined to be mixed together? Donne said and demonstrated that the egg becomes putrid. I am of the same opinion, but this has to be explained.
If, as was done by Donne, everything in the egg is mixed up by violent shaking, there is soon observed an escape of carbonic acid gas, hydrogen and a trace of sulphuretted hydrogen. When the escape of gas has ceased, the contents of the egg, from being alkaline as it was before the mixture, have become acid; the odor is disagreeable, but gamey only, distinct from the horrible odor of rotten eggs, which are alkaline.
If we then examine what has happened to the materials of the egg, the albuminoid substances and fatty matters are found to be unchanged. The sugar and glucogenic matters have disappeared, and in their place we find alcohol, acetic acid and butyric acid. What has then taken place has not been a putrefaction, but a distinctly characterized fermentation. The violent agitation has not killed anything which was organized within the egg; only the order of its contents has been disturbed.
The microzymas have been thrown into media which was not intended for them; those of the white into the yolk, and vice versa. Having been forced to take their nourishment from materials not intended for them, they have reacted in a new manner, but without any change in their nature or appearance.
I could multiply such examples and show that the same microzyma, free or enclosed in a cellule, acts in the former condition as a lactic or butyric ferment, in the latter as an alcoholic ferment. I have reported the example of what happens in the egg because in this instance nothing foreign intervenes; fundamentally, the egg is an animal in posse.
But the microzymas may be regarded from another point of view. Not only are they individually ferments, but they are also able to produce bacteria. This ability, alike for all, does not manifest itself equally for all under the same conditions. This amounts to saying that in each natural group of beings, and also within each centre of activity within each organism, the microzymas possess a certain specificity. What I mean is that the microzymas of dogs, sheep, birds, etc, and those of the liver, the pancreas, or the blood, for instance, although morphologically identical in appearance, and even identical in certain aspects chemically, are nevertheless different. What is remarkable is that the bacterium derived from the microzyma possesses the same function as that microzyma; it is a ferment of the same order. Not only is the microzyma a builder of the bacterium, but it is also a builder of the cellule; but in this new condition its functions may be entirely changed. The microzymas which are butyric ferment, and which produce bacteria which are also butyric ferments, may produce cellules which are alcoholic ferments.
Finally, the microzyma may become diseased and may communicate the diseased condition. The first time that my attention was called to this subject was in relation to my studies of the diseases of the silk worm. On examining the eggs of a nursery in which there were many morts-flats, I was struck with the presence in these eggs of molecular granulations, motile like the others, but more abundant, of which a large number seemed united in 2, 3, and 4 grains, like the chaplets of microzymas.
I asked myself if there might not be a relation of cause and effect. All the eggs which presented this characteristic yielded morts-flats, and those worms which did not die produced butterflies which in turn produced eggs possessing this same character. Finally, when the disease was at its worst, the animal and sometimes the eggs contained bacteria. There is then for the silk-worm a characteristic which enables one to say, ab ovo, that the caterpillar which will be born of this egg will be afflicted with a certain disease. I have not yet had an opportunity to study the different viruses from this point of view, but there can be little doubt that those of smallpox and syphilis contain specific microzymas, i.e. they transport the disease of the individual from which they originate. These two examples have led to the proposal of the specificity of certain diseases called infectious. I do not contradict this. Nevertheless, when we see that smallpox and syphilis are inoculable upon certain animals, and that anthrax is not communicable to dogs nor yet to birds, it is certainly right to ask wherefore!a
[a. The admirable caution of this true man of science is worthy of notice. When almost the whole scientific world had gone crazy over belief in the "specificity of disease," M. Bechamp says merely: "I do not contradict this." The translator is of opinion that disease is not an entity—a thing—but a condition, and that the opinion of its being an entity is answerable for many of the errors of modern medicine. The reasons for his opinion will be given on a fitting opportunity. A large sect, calling themselves "Christian scientists," deny the reality of sickness and say that it is "an error." There can be no question but that a large part of the illnesses, especially of many wealthy persons, is imaginary only, and these can be cured by Christian science, mental healing, hypnotic suggestion and the like. I have been unable to find any rational foundation for the rest of the claims of these sectarians. The desire of so many physicians to prevent such persons from attempting to heal those who are willing to be treated by them is of the like character to the persecutions initiated by Torquenmado and practiced in these days by the Russian Church.—Trans.]
Notwithstanding many remarkable works, nothing is more obscure than the cause which presides over the development of diseases and their communicability. But what we can affirm is that when we are sick, it is we who suffer, and that the suffering is a cruel reality. This is because the cause of our diseased condition is always within ourselves. External causes contribute to the development of the affliction and hence of the disease only because they have brought about some material modification of the medium in which live the ultimate particles of the organized matter which constitutes us, namely, the microzymas. These external causes, by a succession of changes brought about, and depending on a crowd of variables, bring about correlatively a further change, which then bears precisely upon the physiological and chemical status of the microzymas.
The tendency of the most recent researches is to show that miasms, like viruses, contain living microscopic organisms, something analogous to microzymas and bacteria, which proliferate in the blood or tissues of the animal and make it sick. I do not believe that things happen in that manner.
Every phenomenon having a cause, I admit the existence of organized particles in miasms, but I do not believe in their proliferation in the organism, a proliferation which has nowhere been proven, up to the present time, and which many experiments positively contradict. Two authors, for instance, who agree in regarding the malignant pustule as a fermentation and who also agree that the blood of an animal attacked by a disease can communicate it to another animal of the same species, agree no longer when they endeavor to explain what they observe. For Davaine, the virulence of the carbuncular blood is due to the species of bacterium to which he gave the name of bacteridium. For Sanson, this virulence is due to a specific putrid change in the blood. According to him, the bacteria have nothing to do with it. Often they are not to be found in it; nothing organized can even be seen. He even doubts that the bacteria are animals, or plants, or even living beings. And the author remarks - and this time truly - that putrid albuminoid matter, although containing bacteria and even bacteridia, cannot communicate anthrax, even to an animal susceptible to it.
What does all this mean? If neither bacteria nor the products of the putrefaction of albuminoid matters communicate anthrax?
I will try to explain these contradictions.
Davaine made an experiment which I regard as a very important one upon this question. He inoculated some very parenchymatous plants with some putrid matter of plants, in which bacterium termo or something similar to it was present. In an opuntia and in an aloe, he said, the bacteria propagated while preserving their primitive characters. Inoculated from these plants upon another aloe, they gave birth to long filaments divided into 2, 3, or 4 articles or segments. These long filaments, being innoculated upon a new species of aloe, produced corpuscles in a fine powder. Lastly the long bacteria, inoculated upon the species of opuntia and of aloe, which were the subjects of the first inoculations, reproduced the bacterium termo. These facts cannot be disputed. The authority of Davaine guarantees them, but their interpretation seems to me to be open to question.
On the other hand, when I examined the frozen parts of several species of plants (belonging to various families), in which previous to the congellation there had been no lesion whatever, I always found bacteria of several kinds, not to say species, according to the specific nature of the frozen plant, and in the healthy parts, adjacent to the latter, there was not a trace of bacteria; nothing but normal microzymas. This proves that bacteria can develop in plants without inoculation, just as they can develop and even exist normally in man throughout the entire length of the digestive canal.
[a "Individual aptitudes," that is, in she altered medium, abnormal and therefore diseased, and productive of a diseased condition, but not necessarily that of the inoculated matter.—Trans.]
I would then explain the experiment of Davaine by saying that by the wound and the introduction into this wound of certain bacteria and of the liquids which saturate them, this savant produced a lesion and a change of medium which permitted the normal microzymas of the inoculated plants to evolve according to their own individual aptitudes,a and there was no proliferation of the inoculated bacterium.
It is the same with animals. It is not the inoculated organisms which multiply, but their presence and the liquid which saturates them causes a change in the surrounding medium which enables the normal microzymas of the organism to evolve in a diseased manner, either reaching or not reaching the state of a bacterium. The disease is not the consequence of the new mode of being of the normal microzymas; the fever which ensues is only the result of this new method of functioning and of the effort of the organism to rid itself of the products of an abnormal fermentation and disassimilation, while inducing a return of the diseased microzymas to the physiological condition.
This theory, which is founded upon facts ascertained by indisputable experiments, explains, among other things, why the blood of carbuncular sheep containing bacteridia inoculated upon dogs or birds does not induce the appearance of bacteridia and the development of the carbuncular disease, as Davaine has shown. But is there any difference in the purely chemical materials of the blood of a dog, a bird and a sheep? They contain the same albuminoid and other matters, the same salts, the same fatty bodies, and under other conditions, the microzymas found there certainly evolve into bacteria. The only difference which exists, as is proved by the experiment itself, must be in the histological elements of the blood of these animals and in their unequal susceptability. If then the bacteridae inoculated upon birds and dogs do not multiply as they should have done, it is certainly not that the chemical medium is different; and if anthrax does not result from the inoculation, it is because the microzymas of these animals are unfit to evolve morbidly under the influence of the medium which promotes the introduction of morbid materials.
To sum up, the microzymas are organized ferments, and they can under favorable circumstances produce bacteria. Under other circumstances they become builders of cellules. All organisms, ab ovo, are created by them. In short, the cellule, the bacterium itself, can rebecomea a microzyma, and thus the microzymas are seen to be the beginning and end of all organization. If that is true, we ought to encounter them wherever organized beings have lived; and the fact is that I have found them in all the calcareous rocks from the oolithic to the most recent; the dusts of our streets swarm with them, and there as everywhere they are ferments of the same order. Not all of them are morbid. If they were, we would be living under a constant menace; but there may be morbid ones among them.
[a. Would it not be more agreeable to the facts discovered by Prof. Bechamp to regard the much smaller microzymas which result from the final evolution, as the actual offspring of the parent microzymas via the bacteria, like the butterfly from its parent butterfly via the chrysalis?-Trans.]
What relation is there between the above and the work which I recalled at the commencement?
It is now a long time, from the beginning of my researches upon ferments at a time when nobody occupied themselves with the question of spontaneous generation, since I demonstrated (in opposition to generally received ideas) that creosote (and phenic acid, for at this time this acid was sold as creosote, especially in France), in a non-coagulating dose, did not impede a fermentation that had already commenced. I showed that in the same dose, these agents prevented the appearance of organized ferments in the most fermentiscible mixtures. And I gave as explanation for this the fact that they opposed the germination or hatching of the germs of microphytes or microzair ferments which the air might bring to the mixtures, thus confirming an old experiment of Humer, recalled by Chevreul, and precisely proved by that savant, i.e. that the vapors of the essence of turpentine, in a confined space, hindered the germination of seeds and caused the destruction of those which had begun to germinate. I also demonstrated that the same doses of these agents did not hinder fresh muscle from acting on fecula starch, to liquify and to cause it to ferment, nor finally the appearance of bacteria in the mixture. I concluded from this that the muscle must contain ferments already developed, living, and active of themselves, since creosote did not prevent the fermentation from beginning. This observation was the point of departure for the researches that Estor and I undertook upon the evolution of the microzymas of the higher organisms into bacteria. In ending my earliest observations, in 1866, I advised the use of creosote and phenic acid in the rearing of silk worms, for the purpose of preventing the birth of the vibrating corpuscle, which is the vegetable parasite of the pebrine.
At the same period Dr. Masse, starting from the same point of view, employed the same agent to dry up the fecundity of the spores of the microsporon mentagrophytes of parasitic sycosis.
In 1868 my friend, Dr. Pecholier, inspired by similar ideas, published his researches regarding the treatment of typhoid fever by creosote; he proposed to prevent the appearance and multiplication of the typhoid ferment. Later Gaube published a work in confirmation of that of Dr. Pecholier. The same year Calvert reported the experiments made at Mauritius by Drs. Barrault and Jessier on the application of phenic acid in the treatment of typhoid and intermittent fevers.
The above is the connection of the ideas and origin of the employment of creosote and carbolic acid in therapeutics. The theory of this employment is as follows:
Creosote dries up the fecundity of the germs which produce disease,a in conformity with the principles enunciated by me in 1857. The following experiment, while maintaining the principle, gives it a wider meaning and places it in connection with the first parts of this discourse.
[a. Diseased conditions.--Trans]
Beer yeast is a complete organism, though reduced to the state of a simple cellule. As an alcoholic ferment, in a sugared medium it preserves indefinitely its cellular form. But under other conditions, things happen differently. Beer yeast, it has been said, does not cause starch to ferment; that is an error; it causes it to ferment, but in a different manner to sugar--- that is all. If it is introduced into starch of fecula, with some very pure calcic-carbonate (not from the calcareous rocks), the whole being creosoted to hinder the influence of germs of the air, the starch will be liquified, a fermentation will be set up and the yeast disappears by degrees and is finally replaced by an innumerable quantity of superb bacteria. The fermentation is acetic, lactic and butyric instead of being alcoholic. It may be said that it was the bacteria which were the ferments; granted, but observe that these bacteria are the issue of the beer yeast, of its microzymas. That settled, in other experiments, the same quantities of yeast, calcic carbonate and starch being employed, and double and triple the quantity of creosote, the starch was still liquified, and the fermentation proceeded, but the globules of yeast were not destroyed, and the bacteria did not appear. The yeast was not killed; the creosote when used in greater amounts has only prevented the evolution of the microzymas into bacteria.
Creosote, which resists the blossoming of the germs of microphytes and microzoairs in fermentiscible media, preventing thus the commencement of fermentation, does not hinder a fermentation already commenced and where there exist already adult organisms. But in certain doses it is a moderating agent which, according to the experiments just mentioned, regulates the function of the cellule and its microzymas, which it prevents evolving into bacteria.
The explanation of the role of carbolic acid and creosote in therapeutics is easy to understand, if account is taken of the researches which have permitted this hasty resume to be made. These agents do not hinder the physiological functioning of the histological elements of the organism, but they arrest the morbid evolution of the microzymas, the too rapid destruction of the cellules, and tend, doubtless by modifying the medium, to bring back into harmony the functioning of the deviated microzymas.
This recalls unavoidably the agents used in the old therapeutic devices which our ancestors employed; camphor, essences, musk, etc. It is true that it was empirically that they fulfilled the indications which, after many deviations, we now supply like them, but instead we use new methods which rely on experimental and positive data.a
[a. This expression, and some statements in the parts of this "postface" immediately preceding it, have been cited by microbiologists to support the assertion that M. Bechamp believed in the germ theory of disease. Such a statement illustrates a consciousness of the weakness of their position and their eagerness for calling in aid occasional expressions of their opponents. The truth is that the word "germ" is used in a fast and loose way by the microbists, and there is a meaning in it which it might be said that "germs" have produced this or that diseased condition. All which serves to show the importance of exactness in the use of language, a fact rarely borne in mind or carried into practice by these savants. It would be out of place to enter into a disquisition hereon here; besides the theory itself is destined to fall, "with a great bursting of bubbles." so soon as the writings of Prof. Bechamp become widely known. His "Microzymas et Microbes," and his designation of the microbian theory in "Les grands problemes medicaux." p. 11 ,as "La plus grande sottise scientifique de ce temps," sufficiently indicate his opinion.— Trans.]
And, in conclusion, I beg the permission of the Academy to repeat here something which Professor Estor and I said in a recent work upon this subject:
"After death (leaving here the domain of pathology to enter into that of the physiology of the species), it is essential that matter be restored to its primitive condition, for it has only been lent for a time to the living organized being. In recent years an extravagant role has been assigned to the airborn germs; the air may bring them, it is true, but it is not necessary that it should do so."
The microzymas, whether in the state of bacteria or not, are sufficient to assure by putrefaction the circulation of matter.
The living being, filled with microzymas, carries in itself the elements essential for life, disease, death and destruction. And that this variety in results may not too much surprise us, the processes are the same. Our cellules, it is a matter of constant observation, are being continually destroyed by means of a fermentation very analogous to that which follows death. Penetrating into the heart of these phenomena we might really say, were it not for the offensiveness of the expression, that we are constantly rotting!