Medical Mobilization and the War
Journal of the American Medical Association
In the domain of medicine explanations of phenom¬ ena are not infrequently colored by the popular theories .of the day. It has always been difficult to elucidate the chief manifestations of fatigue. These have been further complicated by the peculiar inter¬ relations of the nervous and muscular system where the problem of fatigue is concerned. Not long after the toxin antitoxin theories began to attain a vogue in immunology, the claim was made by Weichardt, in 1904, that the chief agent in the
... roduction of fatigue is a specific substance, a fatigue toxin. A correspond¬ ing or identical substance, designated "kenotoxin," was alleged to be produced by chemical manipulation of protein materials in definite ways. However obtained, these substances were asserted to have the significant property of inducing the development of an antitoxin when they were introduced in suitable ways into the animal organism. Here then there was presented an apparent opportunity of combating fatigue by scien¬ tific methods quite as striking as the subsequent method of eliminating certain cases of laziness and languor by eradicating the hookworm from mankind. Like so many other hopes of promise this too seems to have been shattered by the outcome of critical investigation. Only recently Lee and Aronovitch1 of the Department of Physiology at Columbia University, New York City, have subjected the specific fatigue toxin to a crucial, test. They noted that when test muscles were sus¬ pended in the juice of fatigued muscles of animals their working power was diminished considerably in comparison with the contractile power of normal muscles not treated with juice. But practically the same quantitative effect was observed when the test muscles were subjected to the juice of non fatigued muscles. The New York investigators conclude that no acutely toxic fatigue substance is produced. Weichardt's assumption of the existence of a specific fatigue toxin is therefore not sustained. It seems probable, they say, that Weichardt's animals, which were actually killed by his extreme methods of induc¬ ing fatigue, were put into a profoundly pathologic con¬ dition in which the toxic component of the protein molecule was split off. There is no reason to believe that this occurs in the normal course of fatigue.