Medical Advancements- Antisepsis and asepsis

During the Industrial Revolution there were different advances in science which lead to advances in medicine. Among those advances was the introduction of proper sanitation during medical practices. People dying from unsanitary medical practices during or before the 19th century  was not something uncommon. Although there are still unsanitary procedures performed and medical negligence today, the mortality rate is not as high as before the 1800’s. Among medical advances was the introduction of antiseptic methods.  Based on French chemist Louis Pasteur’s germ theory, during the mid 1800’s Joseph Lister, an English surgeon, developed antiseptic methods. An antibacterial solution that contained Carbolic acid was developed by Joseph Lister. It was sprayed by him onto medical supplies as well as onto wounds. Later Antisepsis was developed into asepsis which results in the absence of bacteria. The modern surgery we have today is a result from asepsis.

Joseph Lister’s Antiseptic Principle of the practice of Surgery, 1867 

In this article from Scientific American, it is mentioned that it has long been said that a baby’s umbilical cord stump should be kept clean, and it will fall on its own. However, researchers are suggesting that in developing countries, an antiseptic such as Chlorhexidine  be used to clean instead. It is considered to be more effective than just water and soap alone. In 2002, a research conducted in Nepal by public health researchers from Johns Hopkins University found that the risk of mortality was reduced by 24% when the umbilical cord was cleaned with Chlorhexidine. The introduction of Antiseptic methods along with new medical advancements definitely paved the way for modern medicine.

Lerner, Brenda Wilmoth. “Antiseptic and Aseptic Techniques Are Developed.” Science and Its Times. Ed. Neil Schlager and Josh Lauer. Vol. 5: 1800 to 1899. Detroit: Gale, 2000. 299-301. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 14 Nov. 2014.


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