View Single Post
Old 06-26-2017, 06:00 PM
clairobscur clairobscur is offline
Join Date: Aug 2001
Location: Paris
Posts: 16,837
Originally Posted by Chronos View Post
Likewise, it's easy to get bread mold, but that does you very little good. One particular strain of one particular species of bread mold produces a very safe and effective antibiotic.
Not just that. The bacteria that naturally produced antibiotics produced very little of it. They had to take years to select a strain that would produce absurdly high quantity of it for it to be of any use. It was a massive endeavor. So your bread mold would be ineffective, even if you chanced on the right strain.

I remember an example showing that pre-modern doctors in fact knew something. It's related to the autopsy of the remains of a 15th century famous person body to determine the causes of death.

IIRC (not sure I'll remember everything right), they found evidences of a massive intestine worms infestation (so bad that worms were probably getting out of her mouth too), of consumption of a fern, and of the presence of a toxic compound. It is apparently known that this particular fern was used effectively in conjunction with the compound to treat intestinal worms (some alcalo´de in the fern would paralyze the worms, and the compound was used to then "flush" them out). The toxic compound was however apparently used in this case in doses massively higher than was the norm, hence the death was ruled as being probably a poisoning by her own physician. Which means that said physician :

-knew an effective treatment for this ailment

-knew that one of the elements of this treatment was toxic and at what dose (of course, I guess it's possible he was in fact clueless and thought : "well, it works with X ounces of it, probably will be even better if I try with twenty times more of it").

Last edited by clairobscur; 06-26-2017 at 06:03 PM.