Wanted—A Benevolent Germ


It is questionable whether the almost daily scientific announcements as to the habitat of bacteria are an unmixed good or add much to the gayety of mankind. Science, having discovered the pestiferous microbe, is careful to tell us that the air we breathe, the food we eat, and the water we drink are filled with them, and that they are deleterious. Every one of these wrigglers is a bad one. Science has never found a good one. It tells us we must look out for them, but suggests no way of doing it. We are continually breathing, eating, and drinking them. We are informed they are slow poison, and yet science is unable to furnish an antidote. Are there no germs which are good and beneficent and which can be utilized to counteract the bad ones? Science makes no reply.

Most harmless things have been turned into bugaboos by science, and recently it has endeavored to disturb the security of the household by making us believe that the home is an all the year round resort for the microbe. It is in the water that comes through the filterer, even; in the kettle that sings on the stove, in the bread that is molded on the board, in the dust specks which float in the parlor, in the flues which convey the heat. Recently a German bacteriologist has discovered that the refrigerator, which was supposed to be the dispenser of purity, is a favorite resort for germs, and the cooler the refrigerator the more frisky the germ. It was long ago decided that fire could not burn them; now we are told ice cannot freeze them. The same scientist says that the carpets and furniture are full of them. The housekeeper who uses the broom and dust brush is warned that these implements of cleanliness are the deadliest enemies of health, and that the more thoroughly the housekeeper uses them the more closely she menaces the family, for they fairly reek with germs. The broom finds them and gathers them up in their innumerable hiding places, and at every whisk of it she sets free whole cohorts of microbes which might have been innocuous if left in their retreats.

All this is depressing and tends to superinduce pessimism. Is there not evil enough in this old world that can be seen and felt without having life made still more wretched by the announcement that every breath we draw, every swallow of food and drink, the street, the shop, the office, the home are swarming with innumerable legions of invisible pests, whose only office it is to remove us from this vale of tears? Is life made any happier for these discoveries of science? How did our grandfathers and grandmothers manage to get along and live to such a sturdy old age? Microbes were as numerous and active then as they are now. Was it because they did not know it, or were they too tough subjects for them? Ignorance certainly was bliss in their case. We are wiser, but are we happier? Will not science bestir itself and find a germicide that can be depended upon? Has it not skill enough to find good and friendly germs somewhere in its culture tubes? We have had enough of the gospel of despair which continually comes from its laboratories.—Chicago Tribune.

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October 5, 1899

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