In the 6th Century B.C., the physician to King Ashurbanipal of
Assyria advised the king to have his diseased teeth pulled in order
to relieve his (rheumatic) aches and pains.
This same knowledge, known as the concept of focal infection,
was also responsible for physician Benjamin Rush's ascendence to
the top of his profession in the post-revolutionary U.S. Within
weeks following implementation of Rush's recommendation that their
diseased teeth be extracted, a number of severely crippled
arthritis victims were once again able to walk without assistance.
In the early years of the current century, this concept was
brought to new levels of sophistication, and irrefutable
validation, by the great works of Frank Billings and his fine
associates. Billings, President of the AMA in 1902 and generally
acknowledged as the father of modern American Medical Education,
regarded his work with focal infection as his greatest
accomplishment, as reflected in his 1916 book FOCAL INFECTION.
Billings's work on the subject involved investigation of the
relation between diseases of the oral foci, particularly in and
around teeth, and a wide range of systemic diseases.
Many fine physicians and dentists worked with Billings and/or
followed in his footsteps. In particular, bacteriologist E.C.
Rosenow, who had worked with Billings for more than a decade,
subsequently went on to serve nearly three decades with the Mayo
Foundation as head of experimental bacteriology. Rosenow and
associates went far beyond merely fulfilling Koch's postulates for
a wide range of diseases, establishing for all time the definite
role of infections in oral foci (teeth and tonsils). Former AMA
President (in 1934) Walter Bierring asserted in 1938, in JAMA, that
"perchance it is safe to assume that the Rosenow "heresy" will become
the medical guide of the future.
Lupus erythematosus was studied in particular depth by Ashton L.
Welsh, using Rosenow's proven culture methodology, as reported in
"Specificity of Streptococci Isolated from Patients with Skin Diseases:
Studies on Pemphigus, Dermatitis Herpetiformis, Lupus Erythematosus and
Erythema Multiforme", J. Investigative Dermatology 7: 7-42 (1946).
Later confirming work was reported by E.C.Rosenow in 1958 in his
last published article (of more than 300 total), entitled "Studies on
specific prevention and treatment of diverse diseases shown due to
specific types of nonhemolytic streptococci", Am. Practitioner and Digest
of Treatment (Philadelphia), 9(5), May 1958, p. 755-761.
For more information on the works of Billings and Rosenow, as well
as an overview of the tragic circumstances that have temporarily obscured
their grand legacy, please visit
Best wishes and kind regards,
S. Hale Shakman
INSTITUTE OF SCIENCE
P.O. Box 382
Santa Monica, CA 90406-0382
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