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JAMA 100 Years Ago
July 12, 2000


Author Affiliations

JAMA 100 Years Ago Section Editor: Jennifer Reiling, Editorial Assistant.

JAMA. 2000;284(2):156. doi:10.1001/jama.284.2.156

The investigations of Flügge and his pupils and of others have shown that in speaking and coughing, droplets of mucus and saliva are expelled from the mouth and carried for some distance away from their source of origin. Such droplets have been found to carry bacteria with them. It is especially in connection with the dissemination of tubercle bacilli that this demonstration becomes of significance. Recently Koeniger1 has published the results of extensive studies of bacterial dissemination by droplets from the mouth, using the bacillus prodigiosus in his tests because of its ready recognizability from the red pigmentation of its colonies. Persons would rinse their mouths and throats with suspensions of this bacillus and then, stepping into a specially arranged room, speak in more or less loud tones for varying periods, the disseminated bacilli falling on plates of culture-media disposed here and there throughout the room. In this way coughing, whistling and sneezing were studied as well as the special effects of repeating the various letters of the alphabet. Consonants—some more than others—were found to throw out bacteria in greater numbers than vowels. Koeniger establishes the fact that this mode of bacterial dissemination takes place over a much wider range of distance than claimed heretofore, the minute droplets or bubbles sailing far and wide through the atmosphere and alighting on all sides of the experimenters. The greatest distance to which bacteria were carried in these experiments was 12.40 meters.

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