OPSONINS AND THE PRACTICAL RESULTS OF THERAPEUTIC INOCULATION WITH BACTERIAL VACCINES

GEORGE W. ROSS
1907 Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA)  
No subject of recent years has been before the medical world more prominently than the opsonic theory and inoculation with bacterial vaccines, and we must earnestly consider whether or not such an interest is justified. To reach a right conclusion we must view the whole subject from at least two standpoints: the one is that of the opsonic theory and the other that of the therapeutic inoculation with bacterial vaccines. Let us first review very briefly the theory and then devote most of our
more » ... te most of our attention to the results achieved by inoculation with vaccines. Opsonins are substances not yet isolated, but known to exist in the blood, whose function it is to unite with bacteria and prepare them for the leucocytes to attack and destroy. Without such preparation the fastidious leucocytes refuse to ingest bacteria, and so this defensive power of the organism is in abeyance. One of Wright's discoveries was this fact, and a second was a technic by which we are enabled to measure the quantity of opsonins in a given blood. The result of such measurement is expressed as the opsonic index. If, therefore, we say that a patient, the subject of tuberculous glands, has an opsonic index of 0.5 to the tubercle bacillus, we simply mean that his blood contains but one-half the normal quantity of those opsonins which are essential to combating the infection of the tubercle bacillus. Such an observation is of great scientific interest, but as practical physicians we want to know its application to the treatment and diagnosis of disease. The question, therefore, is, given a low opsonic index in the course of a chronic bacterial infection, how can we raise that index and relieve or cure our patient? Wright provided the solution of this problem and gave us bacterial vaccines. By a bacterial vaccine is meant "bacteria or their products." In actual practice we use bacteria grown in culture-tubes and then devitalized. The principle in-volved in therapeutic inoculation is that a vaccine, consisting of devitalized bacteria of the same strain as that responsible for the patient's infection, should be administered by subcutaneous injection in correct doses at appropriate times. It is in this connection that the measurement of the opsonic power of the blood aids us, and, without elaborating the argument, permit me to state as my belief that the study of the opsonic power of a patient's blood does enable us to judge the proper dose of a vaccine and the appropriate time for inoculation and reinoculation. The principle of bacterial vaccination may be brought home to our minds by an example or two. If we have to treat a patient with boils'due to infection by the Staphylococcus pyogenes, we will grow the staphylococcus, kill it and inoculate our patient with a proper dose of this dead culture. If our patient has tuberculous glands, we will inoculate him with new tuberculin (Bacilli emulsion), which consists of devitalized tubercle bacilli. The principle holds similarly for all bacteria that we can grow. With this very brief summary of the basic principles,
doi:10.1001/jama.1907.25320150011001c fatcat:objj7bli6fb23itmgeqvpf46qy