What does consumption mean?

The  consumption  is tuberculosis. This infectious disease, which was also known as the “white plague” or “pale dying”, resembled a plague in its devastating spread. Since the exact names of diseases were not known in the vernacular in the past, certain typical characteristics were simply described. The naming “consumption” is due to a major symptom: the serious weight loss.

Historical background

Documents from China and India that are 3,000 years old bear witness to the disease. In ancient times, it was the Greek physicians Hippocrates and Galen who were the first to study tuberculosis, observing and documenting it.

On March 24, 1882, Robert Koch announced the discovery of the tubercle bacillus (Mycobacterium tuberculosis) at a meeting of the Berlin Physiological Society.

disease of consumption

The pathogens, rod-shaped bacteria, are absorbed through the respiratory tract and then settle in the lungs or can later infect the entire organism. Those affected complain of the following symptoms, among others:

One speaks of “open pulmonary tuberculosis”, which is highly contagious and urgently requires medical treatment if the bacteria are released into the environment, for example through coughing. If this is not the case, it is a matter of “closed tuberculosis”, which also requires treatment.

Consumption: current status

Around a third of people worldwide are infected with tuberculosis, although only a few develop the disease. About 10.4 million people become newly infected every year.

Although there are now very effective drugs, around 1.8 million people still die every year as a result of the disease.


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