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January 27, 1962


JAMA. 1962;179(4):284-285. doi:10.1001/jama.1962.03050040038009

Traditional concepts of the epidemiology of pulmonary tuberculosis have been greatly altered during the past 10 years. The once universally accepted belief that tuberculous infection results from intimate contact with an open case of tuberculosis is rapidly giving way to the concept that it is primarily an airborne infection. The classical tuberculosis studies of Wells,1 Lurie et al.,2 and Riley et al.3 have brought this theory into sharp focus, and detailed investigations of epidemics have led to a more adequate understanding of the transmission of this disease as seen in modern times.

The implication of the airborne theory of tuberculosis is radical, namely, that infection can only occur under special conditions. This accounts for some of the peculiar epidemiological aspects of tuberculosis and explains the observation that some individuals may be exposed to an open case for several months without becoming tuberculin positive.

The locus of the