The Englishman who laid the foundations of antiseptics. History of antiseptics

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The Englishman who laid the foundations of antiseptics. History of antiseptics
The Englishman who laid the foundations of antiseptics. History of antiseptics

We often hear the medical term "antiseptics". There are many of them in the pharmacy, and they are necessary. But what is it? Why are they applied? What are they made of? And who is the person to whom the world owes their creation? This article will discuss how these drugs appeared, what they are and why they are needed.

antiseptic composition


There is a whole system of measures to destroy in the wound, tissues and organs, and in the human body as a whole, harmful microorganisms that can cause foci of inflammation. Such a system is called antiseptic, which in Latin means "against decay." This term was first introduced by the British surgeon D. Pingle in 1750. However, Pingle is not the Englishman who laid the foundations of antiseptics that you might think of. He only described the disinfectant action of quinine and introduced the familiar concept.

Already one name can understand the principle of operation of these funds. So, antiseptics are drugs that, with various lesions of tissues and organs, prevent blood poisoning. Each of us has been familiar with the simplest of them since childhood - this is iodine and brilliant green. And the most ancient, used back in the time of Hippocrates, were vinegar and alcohol. Highlyoften the concept of "antiseptic" is confused with another term - "disinfectant". Antiseptics have a wider spectrum of action, as they include all disinfectants, including disinfectants.

Herbal remedies

natural antiseptic

There is such a thing as a natural antiseptic. This, as the name implies, is a substance that was created not by man, but by nature itself. An example is the juice of a plant such as aloe, or the useful anti-cold onions and garlic.

Many antiseptics are made from natural materials. These are various herbal preparations, which include St. John's wort, yarrow or sage. This also includes the notorious tar soap, which is made on the basis of birch tar, and the "Eucalimin" tincture, which is an extract from eucalyptus.

A fundamental achievement in medicine

The emergence of antiseptic drugs in nineteenth-century surgery, as well as other scientific discoveries (pain relief, the discovery of blood types) brought this area of ​​medicine to a whole new level. Until that moment, most doctors were afraid to go for risky operations, which were accompanied by an opening of the tissues of the human body. These were extreme measures, when there was nothing else left. And not in vain, because the statistics were disappointing. Almost one hundred percent of all patients died on the operating table. And the cause was surgical infections.

So, in 1874, Professor Erickson said that surgeons would always be inaccessible to such parts of the body as the abdominal and cranial cavities,as well as the chest. And only the appearance of antiseptics corrected the situation.

First steps

The history of antiseptics began in ancient times. In the writings of the doctors of ancient Egypt and Greece, one can find references to their use. However, there was no scientific justification then. Only since the middle of the nineteenth century, the antiseptic began to be purposefully and meaningfully used as a substance that can prevent decay processes.

Englishman who laid the foundations of antiseptics

At that time, surgeons performed many successful operations. However, serious problems still arose in the treatment of wounds. Even simple operations could be fatal. If we look at the statistics, then every sixth patient died after or during surgery.

Empirical Beginnings

The Hungarian obstetrician Ignaz Semmelweis, a professor at the Budapest Medical University, laid the foundation for antiseptics. In 1846-1849 he worked at the Klein Obstetric Clinic in Vienna. There he drew attention to the strange mortality statistics. In the department where students were admitted, more than 30% of women in childbirth died, and where students did not go, the percentage was much lower. After conducting research, he realized that the cause of the puerperal fever, from which the patients died, was the dirty hands of students who, before coming to the obstetric department, were engaged in dissecting corpses. At the same time, Dr. Ignaz Semmelweis at that time had no idea about microbes and their role in decay. Having made such scientific discoveries, hedeveloped a method of protection - before the operation, doctors had to wash their hands with a solution of bleach. And it worked: the death rate in the maternity ward in 1847 was only 1-3%. It was nonsense. However, during the life of Professor Ignaz Semmelweis, his discoveries were not accepted by the largest Western European specialists in the field of gynecology and obstetrics.

The Englishman who laid the foundations of antiseptics

It became possible to scientifically substantiate the concept of antiseptics only after the publication of the works of Dr. L. Pasteur. It was he who in 1863 showed that microorganisms are behind the processes of decay and fermentation.

Joseph Lister

Joseph Lister has become a luminary for surgery in this area. In 1865, he was the first to declare: "Nothing that is not disinfected should not touch the wound." It was Lister who figured out how to use chemical methods to fight wound infection. He developed the famous dressing soaked in carbolic acid. By the way, back in 1670, the pharmacist Lemaire from France used this acid as a disinfectant.

The professor came to the conclusion that festering wounds are due to the fact that bacteria get into them. He first gave a scientific justification for such a phenomenon as a surgical infection, and came up with ways to deal with it. Thus, J. Lister became known throughout the world as the Englishman who laid the foundations of antiseptics.

Lister Method

J. Lister invented his own way to protect against germs. It consisted of the following. The main antiseptic was carbolic acid (2-5% aqueous, oily or alcoholsolution). With the help of solutions, microbes in the wound itself were destroyed, and all objects in contact with it were processed. Thus, surgeons lubricated their hands, processed instruments, dressings and sutures, and the entire operating room. Lister also suggested using antiseptic catgut as a suture material, which had the ability to dissolve. Lister attached great importance to the air in the surgical room. He believed that it was a direct source of microbes. Therefore, the room was also treated with carbolic acid using a special sprayer.

antiseptics in medicine

After the operation, the wound was sutured and covered with a bandage consisting of several layers. This was also Lister's invention. The bandage did not let air through, and its lower layer, consisting of silk, was impregnated with five percent carbolic acid, diluted with a resinous substance. Then eight more layers were applied, treated with rosin, paraffin and carbolic acid. Then everything was covered with oilcloth and tied with a clean bandage soaked in carbolic acid.

Thanks to this method, the number of deaths during operations has decreased significantly. Lister's article on how to properly treat and decontaminate fractures and ulcers was published in 1867. She turned the whole world upside down. It was a real breakthrough in science and medicine. And the author became known throughout the world as an Englishman who laid the foundations of antiseptics.


Lister's method has become widely used and has found a huge number of supporters. However, there were also those whoagreed with his conclusions. Most of the opponents argued that the carbolic acid chosen by Lister was not an antiseptic suitable for disinfection. The composition of this product contained substances that had a strong irritating effect. This could injure both the patient's tissues and the surgeon's hands. In addition, carbolic acid had toxic properties.

It should be noted that the well-known Russian surgeon Nikolai Pirogov also came close enough to this problem before Joseph Lister. In his method of treatment, the main disinfectants were bleach, camphor alcohol and silver nitrate, which are less toxic than the carbolic acid proposed by the Englishman. However, Pirogov did not create his own doctrine of the use of antiseptics, although he was very close to it.

Asepsis versus antiseptics

history of antiseptics

After some time, a completely new way of dealing with surgical infection was developed - aseptic. It consisted in not decontaminating the wound, but immediately preventing infection from entering it. This method was more gentle compared to the antiseptic, due to which many doctors called for the complete abandonment of Lister's developments. However, life, as always, arranged everything in its own way.

Chemistry as a science did not stand still. There are new antiseptics in medicine that have replaced the toxic carbolic acid. They were softer and more forgiving. During the First World War, there was an urgent need for powerful tools capable of decontaminating firearms.wounds. Old antiseptic and septic preparations could not cope with severe infectious foci. So, chemicals came to the fore.

More and more developments

In the thirties of the last century, the world received a new high-quality antiseptic. It was a sulfanilamide drug capable of preventing and inhibiting the growth of bacteria in the human body. The tablets were taken orally and affected certain groups of microorganisms.

In the forties, the world's first antibiotic was created. With its appearance, completely unthinkable opportunities opened up for surgeons. The main feature of the antibiotic is the selective effect on bacteria and microorganisms. Almost all modern antiseptics belong to this group. It seemed that the drug simply could not be better. However, later it turned out that the excessive use of antibiotics causes a kind of immunity in microorganisms, and no one canceled the side effects.

Unique drug

Scientific and medical progress does not stand still. And in the eighties of the twentieth century, the world learned about such a drug as Miramistin. At first it was developed as an antiseptic, disinfecting the skin of astronauts going to orbital stations. But then it was allowed into widespread use.

antiseptic preparations

Why is it so unique? Firstly, this medication is absolutely safe and non-toxic. Secondly, it does not penetrate the mucous membranes and skin and has no side effects.Thirdly, it is aimed at the destruction of a huge range of pathogens: fungi, bacteria, viruses and other simple microorganisms. In addition, its unique property lies in the mechanism of action on microbes. Unlike antibiotics, the new generation drug does not develop resistance in microorganisms. The drug "Miramistin" is used not only in the treatment of infections, but also for their prevention. So today, unique drugs created for space exploration are available to all of us.

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