Thus if a little diphtheritic sputum were coughed into a person's eye, or some blood containing anthrax bacilli were to touch a raw spot upon the hand, the removal of microbes in either case by washing with simple water might be regarded as a means of passive defence, whilst washing them away with an antiseptic lotion might be regarded as active defence, because the antiseptic would tend not only to remove but to destroy the microbes.
Fortunately Germany, which at the beginning of the century was delivered over to Brownism and vitalism and was deaf to Bichat, was rescued from this sort of barrenness by the brilliant experimental work of Claude Bernard and Pasteur in France - work which, as regards the attenuated virus, was a development of that of Edward Jenner, and indeed of Schwann, Robert Koch worthily following Pasteur with his work on the bacillus of anthrax and with his discovery of that of tuberculosis; and by the cellular doctrine and abundant labours in pathology of Virchow.
The fatal disease known as anthrax did not form the subject of official returns previous to the passing of the Anthrax Order of 1886.
Only a single pathogenic species can withstand the short boiling to which milk is ordinarily treated in domestic management, and this is the anthrax bacillus containing spores.
Observations made on this property with respect to the anthrax bacillus at first gave the hope that it might explain variations in natural immunity.
It was not, however, till October 1886 that anthrax and rabies were officially declared to be contagious diseases for the purposes of certain sections of the act of 1878.
Pasteur found that the germs of anthrax could be cultivated outside the body and their virulence weakened either by growing them at too high a temperature or in an unsuitable medium.
Two years later, an anthrax vaccine; the year after that, a rabies vaccine.
This, for example, is the case with the anthrax bacillus; although the effect of this organism in the living body indicates the production of toxins which diffuse for a distance around the bacteria.
Many of the earlier methods of attenuation were devised in the case of the anthrax bacillus, an organism which is, however, somewhat exceptional as regards the relative stability of its virulence.