From the Dissection Room: Tuberculosis

Eighteenth-century specimen of a larynx and trachea showing changes consistent with tuberculosis from the Hunterian Museum of the Royal College of Surgeons, London.

DEFINITION: Tuberculosis or TB (short for tubercles bacillus) is a common and often deadly infectious disease caused by various strains of mycobacteria, usually Mycobacterium tuberculosis in humans. Tuberculosis usually attacks the lungs but can also affect other parts of the body. It is spread through the air when people who have the disease cough, sneeze, or spit. Most infections in humans result in an asymptomatic, latent infection, and about one in ten latent infections eventually progresses to active disease which, if left untreated, kills more than 50% of its victims.  The classic symptoms are a chronic cough with blood-tinged sputum, fever, night sweats, and weight loss. Infection of other organs causes a wide range of symptoms. [Wikepedia]

DESCRIPTION: ‘The Hon’ble Mrs Dalrymple, aged Twenty-eight when she died. She was remarkable for her talents in music, especially vocal. She had been always of a Scrofulous habit; having the glands of the neck often swelling to a considerable size, from the ear to the clavicle. She caught cold, which fell upon her lungs, and not considering it to be serious, she regarded it but little, ’till it became very violent. The consumptive Symptoms increased, producing all the common Symptoms, excepting [that] what she spit [spat?] was more like the common mucus of the nose, than matter; although a yellowish substance was often mixed with it.Some months before she died, she lost her voice; could hardly articulate; could not get the sound above what is called her breath, or rough Whisper, which was extremely hoarse. There was also a difficulty is swallowing, but she could not swallow a solid much better than a fluid’. [John Hunter, Casebooks (c. 1760), No. 82, pp. 617-8]

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