Common infections - local and systematic

Journal Article


Permanent link to this Item
Journal Title

South African Journal for Continuing Medical Education

Journal ISSN
Volume Title

Health and Medical Publishing Group


University of Cape Town

The 6th edition of Price’s A Textbook of the Practice of Medicine was published in 1941, a few years before penicillin came into general clinical use. Common infectious diseases are meticulously described and the characteristics of the infecting organisms are discussed in detail. The only group of antibiotic agents available, however, were the sulphonamides. Sulphanilamide had revolutionised the treatment of bacterial meningitis and infections due to Streptococcus pyogenes, and sulphapyridine had been found to be invaluable in the treatment of pneumococcal pneumonia, pyelonephritis and gonorrhoea. However, tuberculosis, typhoid and systemic infections due to Staphylococcus aureus carried a grave prognosis, and infective endocarditis was invariably fatal. The treatment of syphilis was prolonged, painful and unpredictable. The only agent available for the treatment of malaria was quinine. More than 60 years later we have a plethora of highly effective antibiotics, and tuberculosis is routinely cured by a standardised course of potent antituberculous drugs. Even the almost invariably lethal human immunodeficiency virus (isolated only 20 years ago) can be tamed by highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART).