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Journal Articles Genes and Immunity Year : 2019

From septicemia to sepsis 3.0—from Ignaz Semmelweis to Louis Pasteur


Sepsis remains a contemporary threat, and its frequency remains high amongst an aging population. Its definition has been regularly revisited, but the impact of the translational research studying it remains very modest compared to the results seen after the introduction of hygiene and the use of antibiotics. In the past, the main forms of sepsis were hospital gangrene (also known as nosocomial fever or putrid fever) that affected the wounded, and puerperal fever that affected women shortly after delivery. In 1858, Armand Trousseau stated that these two pathologies were identical. Lucrezia Borgia, who died in 1519, is undoubtedly the most famous woman to die from puerperal fever. The notion of sepsis as a real epidemic was deplored. For decades doctors remained deaf to the recommendations of their clairvoyant colleagues who advocated for the use of hygienic measures. It was as early as 1795 that Alexander Gordon (UK) and later in 1843, Oliver Holmes (USA), called for the use of hygienic practices. In 1847, Ignaz Semmelweis, a Hungarian physician, provided an irrefutable demonstration of the importance of hygiene in the prevention of contamination by the hands of the practitioners. But Ignaz Semmelweis' life was a tragedy, his fight against the medical nomenklatura was a tragedy, and his death was a tragedy! Nowadays, Ignaz Semmelweis is receiving the honor that he deserves, but never received during his life. Carl Mayrhofer, Victor Feltz, and Léon Coze were the first to associate the presence of bacteria with sepsis. These observations were confirmed by Louis Pasteur who, thanks to his prestige, had a great influence on how to undertake measures to prevent infections. He inspired Joseph Lister who reduced mortality associated with surgery, particularly amputation, by utilizing antiseptic methods.

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pasteur-02127764 , version 1 (13-05-2019)



Jean-Marc Cavaillon, Fabrice Chrétien. From septicemia to sepsis 3.0—from Ignaz Semmelweis to Louis Pasteur. Genes and Immunity, 2019, 20 (5), pp.371-382. ⟨10.1038/s41435-019-0063-2⟩. ⟨pasteur-02127764⟩
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