In 1867, when the work of Pasteur suggested to Lister that pus in a wound might be due to "fermentation" by some invisible living agent and that suppuration could be prevented by operating under a spray of phenol and by the application of antiseptic dressings, the era of antiseptic surgery began and the science of chemotherapy had its birth. In other words, even before 1879, when staphylococci and streptococci were discovered, Lister learned empirically how to destroy them and other microorganisms without serious damage to the host by local application of chemical agents, and today every time a surgeon applies tincture of iodine to the skin or treats local infections by topical application of chemical agents, he is practicing chemotherapy in that he seeks to destroy organisms by these means without damage to the tissues of the host.
The discovery of pathogenic organisms and the finding that various chemical agents
KOLMER JA. THE SCIENCE OF CHEMOTHERAPY. Arch Otolaryngol. 1941;34(1):1–6. doi:10.1001/archotol.1941.00660040009001
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