London's Pulse: Medical Officer of Health reports 1848-1972

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Finsbury 1900

Some notes on the housing question in Finsbury...

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Fin 1
Memorandum
by the
MEDICAL OFFICER OF HEALTH
on
Tuberculous Milk and Meat and Preventive Measures against Consumption.
To the Public Health Committee of the Metropolitan Borough of Finsbury.
At the British Congress on Tuberculosis, held in London from July 22nd to July 26th
inclusive, a number of practical questions were discussed which will directly or indirectly
affect the means adopted by Sanitary Authorities for the prevention of tubercular diseases.
Such questions particularly concern the practice of your Committee, for in the first place
the Borough of Finsbury has one of the highest death-rates from phthisis (consumption)
not only in London, but in Great Britain; and in the second place, your Committee has
under its supervision the second largest dead-meat market in London (the City Corporation
Markets of course being first). Questions of tuberculosis are, therefore, of paramount
importance to this Borough. Hence it seemed desirable that a memorandum should be
added to my usual Report dealing briefly with this subject.
i. Tuberculous Meat and Milk.—It has been for long accepted as true that tuberculosis
whether in man or animals is one and the same disease, and is in all cases caused by one
and the same specific agent, namely, the tubercle-bacillus.
At the recent Congress, Dr. Robert Koch, of Berlin, the discoverer of the Bacillus
tuberculosis, read a paper in which he felt "justified in maintaining that human tuberculosis
differs from bovine and cannot be transmitted to cattle."
He further concluded that bovine tuberculosis was scarcely, if at all, transmissible
to man.
It will be at once obvious that these two conclusions, that human tuberculosis is not
transmissible to cattle, and that bovine tuberculosis is not transmissible to man, are of
profound and far-reaching importance. If it be found on further investigation (which Dr.
Koch deems to be "very desirable") that these conclusions are correct, the prevention of human
tuberculosis will be greatly simplified, and the precautionary measures hitherto adopted for
protecting human food from infection with animal tuberculosis need not be enforced with
the same stringency as at present, or, at least, would require considerable modification.0
The evidence furnished by Dr. Koch for the conclusion that human tuberculosis is not
communicable to animals is briefly this:—Nineteen young cattle which had stood the
tuberculin test (and were therefore presumably free from tuberculosis) were treated as
follows:—Six were fed with tubercular hitman sputum almost daily for seven or eight months.
Four repeatedly inhaled great quantities of bacilli which were distributed in water and
scattered with it in the form of spray. The remainder (nine) were infected in various ways
with pure cultures of tubercle-bacilli taken from human tuberculosis, or tubercular sputum
direct from consumptive patients. In some cases the bacilli or : putum were injected
o It would not necessarily be justifiable to say that in this event such precautionary measures might be
"altogether withdrawn" as has been suggested, for it will be understood that tubei culous meat and
milk from animals might still be unwholesome and unfit for the food of man, even though there was
evidence to show that the exact specific disease was incommunicable. Presumption would always be
against the consumption of meat or milk plus disease products, whether tubercle-bacilli or not, for such
food is not of the quality and nature reasonably expected by rhe purchaser. Various non-specific diseases
of animals causc meat to be unfit for the food of man.


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