Miasma theory of disease

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(Redirected from Miasma theory)

The miasma theory of disease held that diseases such as cholera were caused by a miasma (Greek language: "pollution"), a noxious form of "bad air".

The miasma theory was consistent with the observations that:

  • disease was associated with poor sanitation (and hence foul odours) and that
  • sanitary improvements reduced disease,

but not with the observations of microbiology that led to the germ theory of disease.

Although incorrect, the miasma theory helped motivate major improvements in sanitation.

Prominent supporters of the miasma theory included:

So far as cholera is concerned, the miasma theory was disproved by John Snow following an epidemic in Soho, central London in 1854. Because of the miasmatic theory's predominance among Italian scientists, the 1854 discovery of Filippo Pacini of the bacillum that caused the disease was completely ignored, and the bacteria had to be rediscovered thirty years later by Robert Koch.

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