Tuesday, 12 June 2012

200 Years of the New England Journal of Medicine - Aspergillus in the Archives

 The NEJM is one of the worlds most highly regarded and longest lived medical journals with a history that extends back to1812. The journal maintains an archive of all of its publications from the first day it began but sadly full access is restricted to subscribers.

We can however search the archives and we are then given a single page for each result which certainly gives us a strong flavour of how very different medicine was then compared to how it is today (each item in our list below is linked to NEJM archives and when clicked will provide that part of the archive we are allowed to see. This gives us an opportunity to trace a large part of the history of the diagnosis and treatment of aspergillosis as recorded in the pages of this journal.

The Aspergillus Website has carried out a search of the 19th century issues of NEJM (1812 - 1900) for references to Aspergillus and aspergillosis (the name of the infection caused by Aspergillus) and have listed them in a historical timeline. There are 38 items many of which are descriptions of some of the first cases of aspergillosis recorded.

Some articles refer to the beginnings of 'germ theory' and its opposing hypothesis 'spontaneous generation'. At this time (1861) the ancient belief that life occurred spontaneously was weakening after many examples had been demonstrated of life originating from particles. What was not understood was the nature of those particles as they were too small to see. Louis Pasteur in Paris carried out some elegant experiments, including finding fungal spores suspended in the air (as dust) which the NEJM (or as it was known then the Boston Medical and Surgical Journal) published having translated it from the original french. This was the first ever mention of Aspergillus in NEJM.

Take a look at the timeline here

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