Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 20.djvu/825

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803
THE GERM THEORY.

the deposit has first been shaken up. Strange to say, the latter ten fowls will die as quickly, and with the same symptoms, as the former ten; the blood of all will be found to contain after death the same minute infectious organisms. This equality, so to speak, in the virulence both of the culture preparation and of the blood is due to an apparently futile circumstance. I have made a hundred culture preparations at least, I have understood that this was done—without leaving any considerable interval between the impregnations. Well, here we have the cause of the equality in the virulence. Let us now repeat exactly our successive cultures, with this single difference, that we pass from one culture to that which follows it—from the hundredth to, say, the hundred and first, at intervals of a fortnight, a month, two months, three months, or ten months. If, now, we compare the virulence of the successive cultures, a great change will be observed. It will be readily seen, from an inoculation of a series of ten fowls, that the virulence of one culture differs from that of the blood, and from that of a preceding culture, when a sufficiently long interval elapses between the impregnation of one culture with the microbe of the preceding. More than that, we may recognize, by this mode of observation, that it is possible to prepare cultures of varying degrees of virulence. One preparation will kill eight fowls out of ten, another five out of ten, another one out of ten, another none at all, although the microbe may still be cultivated. In fact, what is no less strange, if you take each of these cultures of attenuated virulence as a point of departure, in the preparation of successive cultures, and without appreciable interval in the impregnation, the whole series of these cultures will reproduce the attenuated virulence of that which has served as the starting-point. Similarly, where the virulence is null, it produces no effect. How, then, it may be asked, are the effects of these attenuating virulences revealed in the fowls? They are revealed by a local disorder, by a morbid modification more or less profound in a muscle, if it is a muscle which has been inoculated with the virus. The muscle is filled with microbes which are easily recognized, because the attenuated microbes have almost the bulk, the form, and the appearance of the most virulent microbes. But why is not the local disorder followed by death? For the moment let us answer by a statement of facts. They are these: the local disorder ceases of itself more or less speedily, the microbe is absorbed and digested, if one may say so, and, little by little, the muscle regains its normal condition. Then the disease has disappeared. When we inoculate with the microbe, the virulence of which is null, there is not even local disorder, the naturæ medicatrix carries it off at once; and here, indeed, we see the influence of the resistance of life, since this microbe, the virulence of which is null, multiplies itself. A little further, and we touch the principle of vaccination. When the fowls have been rendered sufficiently ill by the attenuated virus which the vital resistance has arrested in its de-