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Answer to Question #23245 in Biochemistry for Mimi

Question #23245
1. Why, in the mid 19th century, was there less chance of dying from puerpural fever following home birth rather than a hospital birth and why did washing in chlorinated lime effective in controlling the spread of puerpural fever? Use your (21st century knowledge to answer this question!)

2. What contribution did Ignaz Semmelweis make to the emergence of the Germ Theory of Disease and why did other doctors not like it?
I


Expert's answer
1. The majority of childbed fever cases were causedby the doctors themselves. With no knowledge of germs, doctors did not believehand washing was needed. He instituted a policy of using a solution of chlorinate lime (modern calcium hypochlorite, the compound used in today's common household chlorine bleach solution) for washing hands between autopsy work and the examination of patients. He did this because he found that this chlorinated solution worked best to remove the putrid smell of infected autopsy tissue, and thus perhaps destroying the causal "poisonous" or contaminating "cadaveric" agent hypothetically being transmitted by this material.
2. Semmelweis discovered that the incidence of puerperal fever could be drastically cut by the use of hand disinfection in obstetrical
clinics.Semmelweis's hypothesis, that there was only one cause, that all that mattered was cleanliness, was extreme at the time, and was largely ignored, rejected or ridiculed. His findings also ran against the conventional wisdom that diseases spread in the form of "bad air", also known as miasmas or vaguely as "unfavourable atmospheric-cosmic-terrestrial influences". Semmelweis's groundbreaking idea was contrary to all established medical understanding.

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