Leopard tortoise designed pill to administer insulin in diabetes


The discovery  has a potential to  transform  lives of millions of patients with diabetics.  It can  counter the availability and cost of insulin in future.  If successful , the new technology can even change the  delivery of other  drugs as well.

Scientists have developed a “needle pill” that could allow diabetics to take insulin without the need for daily injections.

The pea-sized capsule contains a small needle made of solid, compressed insulin, which is injected into the stomach wall after the capsule has been swallowed.

When tested in pigs, the device worked consistently and was able to deliver equivalent doses of insulin to those required by someone with diabetes.

Giovanni Traverso, an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School affiliated Brigham and Women’s hospital and a co-author of the study, said: “Our motivation is to make it easier for patients to take medication, particularly medications that require an injection. The classic one is insulin, but there are many others.”

Injections can be painful, cause injuries and be a barrier to people taking medication, he added.

The shape of the capsule is inspired by the leopard tortoise, found in Africa, which has a steep, domed shell that allows it to right itself if it rolls onto its back. In the case of the capsule, the domed shape ensures that the needle is continually reoriented towards the stomach wall. The needle is attached to a compressed spring that is restrained by a disk made from sugar. When the capsule is swallowed, water in the stomach dissolves the disk, releasing the spring and injecting the needle into the stomach wall.

The stomach wall does not have pain receptors, so it is unlikely that this would cause any discomfort. The insulin needle takes about an hour to dissolve into the bloodstream. In tests in pigs, the researchers said they were able to deliver five milligrams of insulin – comparable to the amount that a patient with type 2 diabetes would need to inject.

The metal spring and rest of the capsule passed through the digestive system, without seeming to cause any problems.

The team are now carrying out further tests in pigs and dogs and hope to start the first human trials within three years.

Modern medicine still primitive compared to “Superbugs”


Antibiotic resistant superbug gene discovered in remote Arctic area thought to be among ‘last pristine ecosystems’ on Earth, shocking study reveals

  • Antibiotic resistant gene first found in Delhi waters in 2010 now found in Arctic
  • Researchers say it likely spread through human activity and bird, animal waste
  • In recent years, antibiotic resistance has grown to be a global health crisis  

 

More the medical science has evolved,   more we realize the  primitiveness  in front of  natural phenomenon, the environmental systems and  life around us. The evolution and adaptation of microbes, which we have discovered  for just last hundred years, are in existence for millions of years, much before humans. Discoveries like this, just  make us realize about our primitiveness in front of a superpower, which is best known as “Nature”.  Scientists have found a gene linked to antibiotic-resistant superbugs in an area said to be one of the last ‘pristine’ locations on Earth.

These antibiotic-resistant genes (ARGs) were first detected outside of the lab in 2010 in surface waters in Delhi, India.

But now, experts say the genes have traveled roughly 8,000 miles through human activity and the fecal matter of birds and other wildlife to reach a remote area in the Norweigian archipelago, Svalbard.

The discovery doesn’t bode well for the fight against antibiotic resistance, which has grown to be a global health crisis in recent years.

In a new study published to the journal Environmental International, researchers form Newcastle University report the discovery of the gene blaNDM-1 and other antibiotic-resistant genes in Kongsfjorden, Svalbard.” 

This gene is carried in the gut of animals and people.

‘Polar regions are among the last presumed pristine ecosystems on Earth, providing a platform for characterizing pre-antibiotic era background resistance against which we could understand rates of progression of AR “pollution,”’ said David Graham, an environmental engineer at Newcastle University.

‘But less than three years after the first detection of the blaNDM-1 gene in the surface waters of urban India we are finding them thousands of miles away in an area where there has been minimal human impact.

‘Encroachment into areas like the Arctic reinforces how rapid and far-reaching the spread of antibiotic resistance has become, confirming solutions to AR must be viewed in global rather than just local terms.’

Strains carrying blaNDM-1 were first identified in the lab in 2008 before they were found in Indian waters just two years later.

In the few years since, it’s been detected in over 100 more countries.

‘What humans have done through excess use of antibiotics on global scales is accelerate the rate of evolution, creating a new world of resistant strains that never existed before,’ Graham said.

Through the overuse of antibiotics, fecal releases, and contamination of drinking water, we have consequentially speeded-up the rate at which superbugs might evolve.

‘For example, when a new drug is developed, natural bacteria can rapidly adapt and can become resistant; therefore very few new drugs are in the pipeline because it simply isn’t cost-effective to make them.’

For the new study, the researchers analyzed DNA from forty soil cores taken from eight locations across Kongsfjorden.

And, they found a total of 131 ARGs in the samples

The resistance genes detected were associated with nine major antibiotic classes, including aminoglycosides, macrolides and β-lactams, which are used to treat many infections,’ Graham said.

‘As an example, a gene that confers MDR in Tuberculosis was found in all cores, whereas blaNDM-1 was detected in more than 60% of the soil cores in the study.

‘Identifying an ARG ‘gradient’ across the study landscape, which varies as a function of human and wildlife impact, shows there are still isolated Polar locations where ARG levels are so low they might provide nature’s baseline of antimicrobial resistance.’

According to the team, improvements in waste management and water quality around the world will be keep in staying on top of the spread of ARGs.

The gradient of resistance genes closely reflects corresponding indicators of wastes in the geochemistry, which suggests a novel basis for identifying sites for further AMR research,’ said lead author Dr Clare McCann.

 

History of Diphtheria


In 1613, Spain experienced an epidemic of diphtheria. The year is known as El Año de los Garrotillos (The Year of Strangulations) in the history of Spain.

In 1735, a diphtheria epidemic swept through New England.

Before 1826, diphtheria was known by different names across the world. In England, it was known as Boulogne sore throat, as it spread from France. In 1826, Pierre Bretonneau gave the disease the name diphthérite (from Greek diphthera “leather”) describing the appearance of pseudomembrane in the throat.

In 1856, Victor Fourgeaud described an epidemic of diphtheria in California.

In 1878, Queen Victoria’s daughter Princess Alice and her family became infected with diphtheria, causing two deaths, Princess Marie of Hesse and by Rhine and Princess Alice herself.

In 1883, Edwin Klebs identified the bacterium causing diphtheria  and named it Klebs-Loeffler bacterium. The club shape of this bacterium helped Edwin to differentiate it from other bacteria. Over the period of time, it was called Microsporon diphtheriticum, Bacillus diphtheriae, and Mycobacterium diphtheriae. Current nomenclature is Corynebacterium diphtheriae. Friedrich Loeffler was the first person to cultivate C. diphtheriae in 1884. He used Koch’s postulates to prove association between C. diphtheriae and diphtheria. He also showed that the bacillus produces an exotoxin. Joseph P. O’Dwyer introduced the O’Dwyer tube for laryngeal intubation in patients with an obstructed larynx in 1885. It soon replaced tracheostomy as the emergency diphtheric intubation method.

In 1888, Emile Roux and Alexandre Yersin showed that a substance produced by C. diphtheriae caused symptoms of   diphtheria in animals. In 1890, Shibasaburo Kitasato and Emil von Behring immunized guinea pigs with heat-treated diphtheria toxin. They also immunized goats and horses in the same way and showed that an “antitoxin” made from serum of immunized animals could cure the disease in non-immunized animals.

 

Behring used this antitoxin (now known to consist of antibodies that neutralize the toxin produced by C. diphtheriae) for human trials in 1891, but they were unsuccessful. Successful treatment of human patients with horse-derived antitoxin began in 1894, after production and quantification of antitoxin had been optimized.

 Von Behring won the first Nobel Prize in medicine in 1901 for his work on diphtheria.

 

In 1895, H. K. Mulford Company of Philadelphia started production and testing of diphtheria antitoxin in the United States. Park and Biggs described the method for producing serum from horses for use in diphtheria treatment.

In 1897, Paul Ehrlich developed a standardized unit of measure for diphtheria antitoxin. This was the first ever standardization of a biological product, and played an important role in future developmental work on sera and vaccines.

In 1901, 10 of 11 inoculated St. Louis children died from contaminated diphtheria antitoxin. The horse from which the antitoxin was derived died of tetanus. This incident, coupled with a tetanus outbreak in Camden, New Jersey, played an important part in initiating federal regulation of biologic products.

On 7 January 1904, Ruth Cleveland died of diphtheria at the age of 12 years in Princeton, New Jersey. Ruth was the eldest daughter of former President Grover Cleveland and the former first lady Frances Folsom.

In 1905, Franklin Royer, from Philadelphia’s Municipal Hospital, published a paper urging timely treatment for diphtheria and adequate doses of antitoxin.

In 1906, Clemens Pirquet and Béla Schick described serum sickness in children receiving large

quantities of horse-derived antitoxin.

Between 1910 and 1911, Béla Schick developed the Schick test to detect pre-existing immunity to diphtheria in an exposed person.

Only those who were not exposed to diphtheria were preferably vaccinated. A massive, five-year campaign was coordinated by Dr. Schick. As a part of the campaign, 85 million pieces of literature were distributed by the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company with an appeal to parents to “Save your child from diphtheria.” A vaccine was developed in the next decade, and deaths began declining significantly in 1924.

In 1919, in Dallas, Texas, 10 children were killed and 60 others made seriously ill by toxic antitoxin which had passed the tests of the New York State Health Department. Mulford Company of Philadelphia (manufacturers) paid damages in every case.

In the 1920s, an estimated 100,000 to 200,000 cases of diphtheria occurred per year in the

United States, causing 13,000 to 15,000 deaths per year.  Children represented a largemajority of these cases and fatalities. One of the most infamous outbreaks of diphtheria was in Nome, Alaska; the “Great Race of Mercy” to deliver diphtheria antitoxin is now celebrated by the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.

In 1926, Alexander Thomas Glenny increased the effectiveness of diphtheria toxoid (a modified version of the toxin used for vaccination) by treating it with aluminum salts. Vaccination with toxoid was not widely used untli the early 1930s.

In 1943, diphtheria outbreaks accompanied war and disruption in Europe. The 1 million cases in Europe resulted in 50,000 deaths. In 1949, 68 of 606 children died after diphtheria immunization due to improper manufacture of aluminum phosphate toxoid.

In 1974, the World Health Organization included DPT vaccine in their Expanded Programme on Immunization for developing countries.

In 1975, an outbreak of cutaneous diphtheria in Seattle, Washington, was reported.

In 1994, the Russian Federation had 39,703 diphtheria cases. By contrast, in 1990, only 1,211 cases were reported.

Between 1990 and 1998, diphtheria caused 5000 deaths in the countries of the former Soviet Union

In early May 2010, a case of diphtheria was diagnosed in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, after the devastating 2010 Haiti earthquake. The 15- year-old male patient died while workers searched for antitoxin.

In 2013, three children died of diphtheria in Hyderabad, India.]

In early June 2015, a case of diphtheria was diagnosed aVt all d’Hebron University Hospita lin Barcelona, Spain. The 6-year-old child who died of the illness had not been previously vaccinated due to parental opposition to vaccination. It was the first case of diphtheria in the country since 1986 as reported by” El Mundo” or from 1998, as reported by WHO.

In March 2016, a 3-year-old girl died of diphtheria in the University Hospital of Antwerp, Belgium.

In June 2016, a 3-year-old, 5-year-old, and 7-year-old girl died of diphtheria in Kedah and Malacca, Sabah Malaysia.

In January 2017, more than 300 cases were recorded in Venezuela.

In November and December 2017, an outbreak of diphtheria occurred in Indonesia with more than 600 cases found and 38 fatalities.

source

 

“Himalayan Viagra” or ‘yarsagumba’ (Ophiocordyceps sinensis)


It’s the time of the year that the mushroom called ‘yarsagumba’ (Ophiocordyceps sinensis), also known locally as ‘keerajari’, appears in the meadows when the snow starts melting.  it is also known as Himalayan Viagra.

The mushroom, which has a long history of use in traditional Chinese medicine (thousands of years), fetches a price of Rs 2 to 5 lakhs per kilogram or much  above locally, depending on quality. It plays a vital role in the local economy, that’s largely pastoral.

It is also called Yart Swa Gun Bu, which in Tibetan means ‘herb in the summer and insect in the winter’. In Nepali it is referred to by the colloquial term Yachagumbu or Yaxagumbu while the Chinese call it Dong cong xia cao.

Usually, as the month of May approaches, villagers from Dasholi, Ghat, Urgam valley, Niti valley, Deval and Joshimath blocks of Chamoli district start start moving into the the higher ranges, armed with essentials and rations. They camp there for at least two months while hunting for the prized mushroom, yarsagumba or Himalayan Viagra.

The heavy snowfall in the higher ranges of Himalayas earlier this week has disrupted the hunt for a prized aphrodisiac fungus popularly referred to as Himalayan viagra. There’s a lot at stake.

Heavy snowfall  has forced villagers to call off the hunt for yarsagumba and climb down from the higher reaches of Chamoli district in Uttarakhand. They will have to wait till the snow melts and that may leave only a handful days left in the Yarsagumba season.

Usually, as the month of May approaches, villagers from Dasholi, Ghat, Urgam valley, Niti valley, Deval and Joshimath blocks of Chamoli district start  moving into the higher ranges, armed with essentials and rations. They camp there for at least two months while hunting for the prized mushroom.

source

Supreme Court judgement on End of Life & Living Will: Partaking moral and ethical dilemma of doctors and relatives


A welcome, long awaited judgement, where law has come to help the doctors and relatives of terminally ill patients. Doctors are often accused of over treatment, without realizing that law does not permit them the termination of treatment as desired by patients or relatives. commonly  doctors come to face these difficult situations, where moral and ethical dilemma  is larger than treatment itself.

The Supreme Court ruled on Friday that individuals have a right to die with dignity, in a verdict that permits the removal of life-support systems for the terminally ill or those in incurable comas.

The court also permitted individuals to decide against artificial life support, should the need arise, by creating a “living will”.

 Living will

A ‘living will’ is a concept where a patient can give consent that allows withdrawal of life support systems if the individual is reduced to a permanent vegetative state with no real chance of survival.

It is a type of advance directive that may be used by a person before incapacitation to outline a full range of treatment preferences or, most often, to reject treatment. A living can detail a person’s preferences for tube-feeding, artificial hydration, and pain medication when an individual cannot communicate his/her choices.

In its verdict on Friday, SC has attached strict conditions for executing “a living will that was made by a person in his normal state of health and mind”.

The US, UK, Germany and Netherlands have advance medical directive laws that allow people to create a ‘living will’.

 Active and passive euthanasia

Active euthanasia, the intentional act of causing the death of a patient in great suffering, is illegal in India. It entails deliberately causing the patient’s death through injections or overdose.

But passive euthanasia, the withdrawal of medical treatment with the deliberate intention to hasten a terminally ill patient’s death was allowed by the Supreme Court in Friday’s landmark verdict.

The court also laid down guidelines on who would execute the will and how a nod for passive euthanasia would be granted by a medical board set up to determine and carry out any “advance directive”.

In cases where there is no “advance directive”, the patient, family, friends and legal guardians can’t take the decision on their own, but can approach a high court for stopping treatment .

 Terminally Ill Patients (Protection of Patients and Medical Practitioners) Bill

In 2012, the union health ministry posted a draft of the Terminally Ill Patients (Protection of Patients and Medical Practitioners) Bill on its website and invited public reactions.

The Bill is popularly referred to as the Passive Euthanasia Bill although its draft did not use the emotive word “euthanasia” to skirt complications around the term, a health ministry official told HT in 2016. It says every advance medical directive (also called ‘living will’) or medical power of attorney executed by a person shall be taken into consideration in matter of withholding or withdrawing medical treatment but it shall not be binding on any medical practitioner.

 Misuse of law

A major concern is the misuse of the law. If it is legal to passively allow or hasten death, what’s to say an aged parent won’t be hastened in favor of an inheritance, or a spouse have treatment withdrawn for the sake of a hefty insurance payout? That is why there are legal provisions  in the judgement  by Supreme court, to safe guard the patients.

The bench also stipulated strict conditions for the execution of the living will, which includes the setting up of two medical boards and certification by the judicial magistrate. It also directed high courts to maintain a record of all living will documents prepared within the state.

 Euthanasia in other countries

Euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide have been legal in The Netherlands and Belgium since 2001 and 2002. In the US, Switzerland and Germany, euthanasia is illegal but physician-assisted suicide is legal. Euthanasia remains illegal in the UK, France, Canada and Australia.

Source- Hindustan times

20 interesting facts about the kidneys : World Kidney Day


  1. Kidneys are very important   and   fundamental organs of human body.  They are extremely complex in mechanism and they have two functions  that is blood purification and  waste elimination.
  2. An adult kidney weighs around  142 grams and  is the size of  human fist.
  3. In case of new born human babies, the kidney to body weight ratio is 3 times the kidney to body weight ratio in adults. In case of adults, kidneys form only 0.5% of the entire body weight.
  4. Largest kidney stone recorded was of coconut size and weighed 1.1 kg.
  5. If a child is borne without a kidney, the one kidney will grow and weigh the same as of two kidneys.
  6. The right kidney is below the liver ( largest organ ) and smaller than left kidney.
  7. There are 1.1 million nephrons ( very tiny filters that are capable of filtering blood) in the body. If stretched end to end,  they  will be 8 KM long.
  8. Kidney filter blood around 400 times a day.
  9. If kidney detect fall in Blood pressure, they signal blood vessels to shrink.
  10. A single kidney with only 75 % of its functional capacity can sustain life very well.
  11. They are capable of activating vitamin D in our body. This vitamin is usually produced by special skin cells when they are exposed to sunlight.
  12. Kidneys cleanse 1.3 liters of blood every minute to produce about the same quantity  of urine in a day.
  13. Most common cause of renal stones is not drinking enough water.
  14. About 25 % of the blood from heart, goes to kidneys.
  15. High BP and diabetes can both lead to failure of kidneys.
  16. When the kidney functions are completely lost, it is known as ESRD or End Stage Renal Disease.
  17. People suffering with ESRD can live longer with help of kidney transplant or dialysis.
  18. The first ever kidney transplant was conducted by Yuri Voronoy, a Russian surgeon in year 1933, but was unsuccessful.
  19. The first ever successful kidney transplant was conducted by Dr. Joseph E. Murray in December 1954, in Massachusetts at Peter Bent Brigham Hospital.
  20. A kidney transplant would be normally put in pelvis and  disabled kidney will not be extracted.

 

source

Reversal of medical advancement, reversion of the enemy : ANTIBIOTIC RESISTANCE


Substances with antibiotic properties had been used for various purposes since ancient times.

Before the early 20th century, treatments for infections were based primarily on medicinal folklore. Mixtures with antimicrobial properties that were used in treatments of infections were described over 2000 years ago. Many ancient cultures, including the ancient Egyptians and ancient Greeks, used specially selected mold and plant materials and extracts to treat infections.

For their successful development of penicillin, which Fleming had accidentally discovered but could not develop himself, as a therapeutic drug, Chain and Florey shared the 1945 Nobel Prize in Medicine with Fleming.

Germ theory and discovery of antibiotics has contributed a lot to development of modern medicine. Treatment of advanced multi system diseases, complex surgeries, advanced procedures have become easier to handle because of  advent of antibiotics.  

Over the last several decades, antibacterial drug use has become widespread with their misuse being an ever‑ increasing phenomenon. Consequently, antibacterial drugs have become less effective or even ineffective, resulting in a global health security emergency. These infections will be associated with a high consumption of healthcare resources manifested by a prolonged hospital stay and high mortality. The World Health Organization  has identified antimicrobial resistance as one of the most important problems for human health with significant adverse impacts on clinical outcomes and higher costs due to consumption of healthcare resources.

Antibiotic resistance is a serious problem in all parts of the world including Asia–Pacific, Latin America, Middle East, Europe and North America regions. A particular concern is the misuse or overuse of antibiotics, which has led to the development of resistant or super-resistant bacterial strains.

Reasons for widespread antibiotic resistance:

  1. High burden of infectious diseases
  2. Poor control of infectious diseases and lack of prevention.
  3. Easy availability of antibioics.
  4. Liberal prescription and crosspathy. Common and unrestricted use  by alternative medical system doctors, non doctors and quacks.
  5. Over the counter sale of antibiotics by pharmacists.
  6. Self administration of antibiotics by patients.
  7. Shorter courses and irregular intake of antibiotics by patients.
  8. Inappropriate doses of antibiotics, specially if given by non trained person.
  9. Pressure by patients for early recovery, resulting in over prescription.
  10. Presence of large number of generics of molecules and their quality not ensured.
  11. Poor environmental sanitation, widespread  water contamination, animal waste.
  12. Lack of proper regulation and control of quality of antibiotics
  13. Unregulated  use of antibiotics in animal industry, agriculture, and aquaculture.

 

It is not uncommon to see patients not responding well to treatment. Such scenario increase difficulty for doctors, besides they may be blamed for not doing enough. Reasons may be any of the  above.  Bacteria have been the occupants around us in environment  and also in our body, have acquired deadly weapons  quickly.  Discovery of antibiotics have not lasted even 100 years. Over enthusiasm and euphoria  created by  mass production and use of antibiotics may prove lethal for human race. Antibiotic resistance has potential to undo all the advancement and is a threat of return to pre- antibiotic era .

 

 

Hammurabi’s medical regulation code (1750 BC): Noble profession has always been regulated cruelly ?


Children are always taught in school that medical profession is a noble one. But they are never told, about the cruelty this profession has faced since ancient times. the ancient rulers always blamed the physician for the poor patient outcome and also made regulations to regulate medical profession, and this was when the medical science was not even developed enough to deal with most diseases.

A great military commander, Hammurabi consolidated small states in the vicinity after ascending to the throne on the death of his father. Sometime around 1780-50 B.C., the Babylonian king Hammurabi promulgated the now famous  Code of Hammurabi, covering both civil and criminal law.

Hammurabi’s Code of Laws was considered the first documented Code ever used by human civilization in Mesopotamia, the cradle of civilization, the land of Assyro-Babylonian culture. This era first saw the interface between medicine and law in the dawn of civilization.

Among the 282 laws in Hammurabi’s Code, nine (215-223) pertain to medical practice:

 

HAMMURABI’S CODE OF LAWS :

  1. If a physician performs eye surgery and saves the eye, he shall receive ten shekels in money.
  2. If the patient be a freed man, he receives five shekels.
  3. If he be the slave of some one, his owner shall give the physician two shekels.
  4. If a physician performs an operation and kills someone or cuts out his eye, the doctor’s hands shall be cut off.
  5. If a physician performs an operation on the slave of a freed man and kills him, the doctor shall replace the slave with another slave.
  6. If he had opened a tumor with the operating knife, and put out his eye, he shall pay half his value.
  7. If a physician heal the broken bone or diseased soft part of a man, the patient shall pay the physician five shekels in money.
  8. If he were a freed man he shall pay three shekels.
  9. If he were a slave his owner shall pay the physician two shekels.

 

As we can see, it did  not take into account  the earlier works or contribution of doctors to society. It also did not take into account the  uncertainty of medical science and uncertainties of the outcome.  The regulatory system was based on  principle of revenge and punishments.

Deselection of providers: Hammurabi’s Codex specified the harshest form of deselection possible. If the physician erred through omission or commission, his fingers or hands were cut off, immediately stopping his practice. This severe punishment for negligence supposedly weeded out physicians incapable of delivering adequate care. In addition, it prevented these physicians from practicing in a different locality. Obviously, such a penalty discouraged a physician surplus.

Since ancient civilization, medical regulation has been always cruel to doctors.   Hammurabi at the start of civilization believed that doctors needed to be punished in case there was poor prognosis. He failed to understand the complexity of human body and the limitations of medical profession.

Today our system  is becoming somewhat  similar, to those ancient regulations in  terms of punishment and revenge. Differential payment system for health care also resembles the Code of Hammurabi in some respects.And this is despite the fact that now we are very well conversant with the workings of the human body and despite cognizance of the poor prognosis in certain disease states.

In an effort to institute managed healthcare, our society is in a way re-entering the realm of an ancient medical care system. Certain aggrieved health care consumers may welcome a move toward harsh penalties in the name of justice and simply for revenge but we need to keep in mind the  poor outcomes in complex diseases, limitation of science and of course the idiosyncrasies of the human body.

 

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Code_of_Hammurabi

Code of Hammurabi. (2017, December 18). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 16:58, December 23, 2017, from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Code_of_Hammurabi&oldid=816023447

 

 

Medical Regulation and Medical Community of Ancient Rome


Medical community

Medical services of the late Roman Republic and early Roman Empire were mainly imports from the civilization of Ancient Greece, and then through Greeks enslaved during the Roman conquest of Greece. Greek knowledge imparted to Roman citizens visiting or being educated in Greece.  A perusal of the names of Roman physicians will show that the majority are wholly or partly Greek and that many of the physicians were of servile origin.

The servility stigma came from the accident of a more medically advanced society being conquered by a lesser. One of the cultural ironies of these circumstances is that free men sometimes found themselves in service to the enslaved professional or dignitary, or the power of the state was entrusted to foreigners who had been conquered in battle and were technically slaves. In Greek society, physicians tended to be regarded as noble.

Public medicine

The medical art in early Rome was the responsibility of the pater familias, or patriarch. The importation of the Aesculapium established medicine in the public domain. There is no record of fees being collected for a stay at one of them, at Rome or elsewhere.  individuals vowed to perform certain actions or contribute a certain amount if certain events happened, some of which were healings. Such a system amounts to gradated contributions by income, as the contributor could only vow what he could provide. The building of a temple and its facilities on the other hand was the responsibility of the magistrates. The funds came from the state treasury or from taxes.

Private medicine  A second signal act marked the start of sponsorship of private medicine by the state as well. In the year 219 BCE, a vulnerarius, or surgeon, Archagathus, visited Rome from the Peloponnesus and was asked to stay. The state conferred citizenship on him and purchased him a taberna, or shop, near the compitium Acilii (a crossroads), which became the first officina medica.

The doctor necessarily had many assistants. Some prepared and vended medicines and tended the herb garden. These numbers, of course, are at best proportional to the true populations, which were many times greater.

Roman doctors of any stature combed the population for persons in any social setting who had an interest in and ability for practicing medicine. On the one hand the doctor used their services unremittingly. On the other they were treated like members of the family; i.e., they came to stay with the doctor and when they left they were themselves doctors. The best doctors were the former apprentices of the Aesculapia, who, in effect, served residencies there.

 

The practice of medicine

The physician

The next step was to secure the cura of a medicus. If the patient was too sick to move one sent for a clinicus, who went to the clinum or couch of the patient.

That the poor paid a minimal fee for the visit of a medicus is indicated by a wisecrack in Plautus. It was less than a nummus. Many anecdotes exist of doctors negotiating fees with wealthy patients and refusing to prescribe a remedy if agreement was not reached. The fees charged were on a sliding scale according to assets. The physicians of the rich were themselves rich. For example, Antonius Musa treated Augustus’ nervous symptoms with cold baths and drugs. He was not only set free but he became Augustus’ physician. He received a salary of 300,000 sesterces. There is no evidence that he was other than a private physician; that is, he was not working for the Roman government.

Legal responsibility Doctors were generally exempt from prosecution for their mistakes. Some writers complain of legal murder. However, holding the powerful up to exorbitant fees ran the risk of retaliation. Pliny reports  that the emperor Claudius fined a physician, Alcon, 180 million sesterces and exiled him to Gaul. By chance a law existed at Rome, the Lex Aquilia  passed about 286 BCE, which allowed the owners of slaves and animals to seek remedies for damage to their property, either malicious or negligent. Litigants used this law to proceed against the negligence of medici, such as the performance of an operation on a slave by an untrained surgeon resulting in death or other damage.

Social position While encouraging and supporting the public and private practice of medicine, the Roman government tended to suppress organizations of medici in society. The constitution provided for the formation of occupational collegia, or guilds. The consuls and the emperors treated these ambivalently. Sometimes they were permitted; more often they were made illegal and were suppressed. The medici formed collegia, which had their own centers, the Scholae Medicorum, but they never amounted to a significant social force. They were regarded as subversive along with all the other collegia.Doctors were nevertheless influential. They liked to write. Compared to the number of books written, not many have survived; for example, Tiberius Claudius Menecrates composed 150 medical works, of which only a few fragments remain. Some that did remain almost in entirety are the works of Galen, Celsus, Hippocrates and the herbal expert, Pedanius Dioscorides who wrote the 5-volume De Materia Medica.

Military medical corps

Republican

 The state of the military medical corps before Augustus is unclear. Corpsmen certainly existed at least for the administration of first aid and were enlisted soldiers rather than civilians. The commander of the legion was held responsible for removing the wounded from the field and insuring that they got sufficient care and time to recover. He could quarter troops in private domiciles if he thought necessary.

Imperial  

The army of the early empire was sharply and qualitatively different. If military careers were now possible, so were careers for military specialists, such as medici. Under Augustus for the first time occupational names of officers and functions began to appear in inscriptions. The term medici ordinarii in the inscriptions must refer to the lowest ranking military physicians. No doctor was in any sense “ordinary”. They were to be feared and respected. During his reign, Augustus finally conferred the dignitas equestris, or social rank of knight, on all physicians, public or private. They were then full citizens and could wear the rings of knights. In the army there was at least one other rank of physician, the medicus duplicarius, “medic at double pay”, and, as the legion had milites sesquiplicarii, “soldiers at 1.5 pay”, perhaps the medics had that pay grade as well.

Practice

Medical corps in battle worked on the battlefield bandaging soldiers. From the aid station the wounded went by horse-drawn ambulance to other locations, ultimately to the camp hospitals in the area. There they were seen by the medici vulnerarii, or surgeons, the main type of military doctor. They were given a bed in the hospital if they needed it and one was available. The larger hospitals could administer 400-500 beds.A base hospital was quadrangular with barracks-like wards surrounding a central courtyard. On the outside of the quadrangle were private rooms for the patients. Although unacquainted with bacteria, Roman medical doctors knew about contagion and did their best to prevent it. Rooms were isolated, running water carried the waste away, and the drinking and washing water was tapped up the slope from the latrines.Within the hospital were operating rooms, kitchens, baths, a dispensary, latrines, a mortuary and herb gardens, as doctors relied heavily on herbs for drugs.. They operated or otherwise treated with scalpels, hooks, levers, drills, probes, forceps, catheters and arrow-extractors on patients anesthetized with morphine. Instruments were boiled before use. Wounds were washed in vinegar and stitched. Broken bones were placed in traction. There is, however, evidence of wider concerns. A vaginal speculum suggests gynecology was practiced, and an anal speculum implies knowledge that the size and condition of internal organs accessible through the orifices was an indication of health. They could extract eye cataracts with a special needle. Operating room amphitheaters indicate that medical education was ongoing. Many have proposed that the knowledge and practices of the medici were not exceeded until the 20th century CE.

Regulation of medicine

By the late empire the state had taken more of a hand in regulating medicine. The law codes of the 4th century CE, such as the Codex Theodosianus, paint a picture of a medical system enforced by the laws and the state apparatus. At the top was the equivalent of a surgeon general of the empire. He was by law a noble, a dux (duke) or a vicarius (vicar) of the emperor. He held the title of comes archiatorum, “count of the chief healers.” The Greek word iatros, “healer”, was higher-status than the Latin medicus.Under the comes were a number of officials called the archiatri, or more popularly the protomedicisupra medicosdomini medicorum or superpositi medicorum. They were paid by the state. It was their function to supervise all the medici in their districts; i.e., they were the chief medical examiners. Their families were exempt from taxes. They could not be prosecuted nor could troops be quartered in their homes.The archiatri were divided into two groups:

Archiatri sancti palatii, who were palace physicians

Archiatri populares. They were required to provide for the poor; presumably, the more prosperous still provided for themselves.

The archiatri settled all medical disputes. Rome had 14 of them; the number in other communities varied from 5 to 10 depending on the population.

 

 

 

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