This is topic Childhood diseases treatable by antibiotics in forum Books, Films, Food and Culture at Hatrack River Forum.

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Posted by King of Men (Member # 6684) on :
I'm doing a bit of research for a story; I'd like to know four or five diseases that meet these criteria:

Most of the famous diseases I know the names of tend to be viral, prevented by vaccines rather than cured by medicine, or both. Anyone know what diseases penicillin helped so much with?
Posted by scifibum (Member # 7625) on :
Lots of stuff about Strep bacteria:
Posted by ricree101 (Member # 7749) on :
Wouldn't the reason that most "childhood diseases" primarily hit children be due to the fact that adults have already built up immunity to the virus. I can't really think of any bacterial diseases that wouldn't also hit adults.
Posted by Samprimary (Member # 8561) on :
I think 'mainly hit children' may be an artificial constraint. The diseases are rarely very discriminatory, it's just that they're more likely to kill you if they catch you as a kid. True with the virals, too. In the case of what penicillin and other antibiotics helped with (once we figured out how to manufacture them) in terms of preventing child mortality, there's meningitis, pneumonia and septicaemia.
Posted by King of Men (Member # 6684) on :
Ok, it doesn't have to be children specifically. Was meningitis a big killer?
Posted by breyerchic04 (Member # 6423) on :
I think ricree is right.
Posted by scifibum (Member # 7625) on :
This document might help a little, although it's pretty general.

This journal article looks like a good place to look for references that will detail actual causes of death historically, if you can access the full text through your school:;jsessionid=667F3FD521A6753B6D4423862F3E0FBA.tomcat1?fromPage=online&aid=35597

Once you find a good (detailed) list of historical causes of death it should be pretty simple to cross reference that against a list of things penicillin treats.
Posted by King of Men (Member # 6684) on :
Thanks. Looks like pneumonia is my best bet.
Posted by ClaudiaTherese (Member # 923) on :
If you are looking for four or five, you might want to consider tuberculosis.
Posted by King of Men (Member # 6684) on :
I had the impression tuberculosis didn't respond well to antibiotics? Or am I getting confused by modern resistant versions?
Posted by ClaudiaTherese (Member # 923) on :
It is curable by antibiotics; it's just that the course of antibiotics is longer. No 7-10 day course of antibiotics, but more in the order of months. But they work(ed) just fine.

Given that you haven't said what exactly you want the disease to accomplish, this may or may not be relevant, but tuberculosis is known as one of the great mimickers. It can be hard to diagnose, since it is not only the lung disease (which we are most familiar with), but also can infect bone, liver, brain, all sorts of places. Pneumonia would be an easy diagnosis, but tuberculosis would be more difficult, up to perhaps almost undiagnosable in some forms.
Posted by ClaudiaTherese (Member # 923) on :
For reference as to burden of disease:

The beginning and the end of the 20th century were marked by great pandemics: influenza and AIDS. Medical journals do not describe any major tuberculosis (TB) pandemics in the 20th century. Yet TB likely was responsible for more deaths in the last 100 years than influenza and HIV combined. Steadily, insidiously, millions of people die from TB every year. Even under optimal TB control conditions, it is estimated that more than 50 million people will die from TB between 1998 and 2020. Under current TB control conditions, the number is closer to 70 million. It is long past time that the global community committed to a serious program to eliminate tuberculosis mortality. Such a program would require making treatment universally available, making prevention accessible to those in poor countries as well as affluent, addressing the interaction between HIV and TB, and setting serious verifiable goals. A global 5 x 7 initiative that calls for treating an additional 5 million active TB cases per year, and for screening up to five contacts of every TB case, by 2007 would offer an important beginning. With the sustained effort that comes from public commitment, TB can be changed from one of the most important causes of preventable death worldwide to a historical cause of death. Without this effort, TB will remain the silent, steady killer it has been for centuries. The rationale for action, potential and need for success are detailed in this article.

Long time due: reducing tuberculosis mortality in the 21st century.

And as to history (at this link, "chemotherapy" means treatment with chemicals: specifically, chemical antibiotics):

Success came in 1943. In test animals, streptomycin, purified from Streptomyces griseus, combined maximal inhibition of M. tuberculosis with relatively low toxicity. On November 20, 1944, the antibiotic was administered for the first time to a critically ill TB patient. The effect was almost immediately impressive. His advanced disease was visibly arrested, the bacteria disappeared from his sputum, and he made a rapid recovery. However, the new drug had side effects - especially on the inner ear - but the fact remained that, M. tuberculosis was no longer a bacteriological exception; it could be assailed and beaten into retreat within the human body.

A rapid succession of anti-TB drugs appeared in the following years. These were important because with streptomycin monotherapy (one drug treatment), resistant mutants began to appear with a few months, endangering the success of antibiotic therapy. However, it was soon demonstrated that this problem could be overcome with the combination of two or three drugs.

A History of Tuberculosis Treatment (New Jersey Medical School)

[ March 26, 2009, 07:57 PM: Message edited by: ClaudiaTherese ]
Posted by ClaudiaTherese (Member # 923) on :
Other diseases that are vaccinated against in many children in this part of the world are still major killers elsewhere, but treatable by antibiotics, such as typhoid.

Antibiotics, such as ampicillin, chloramphenicol, trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole, Amoxicillin and ciprofloxacin, have been commonly used to treat typhoid fever in developed countries. Prompt treatment of the disease with antibiotics reduces the case-fatality rate to approximately 1%.

When untreated, typhoid fever persists for three weeks to a month. Death occurs in between 10% and 30% of untreated cases.


Added: one of the most common bacterial causes of childhood death was sepsis, or bloodstream infection, which could be caused by any of a variety of bacteria -- spread from an infected cut, or spread from a urinary tract infection, and so on.
Posted by Kwea (Member # 2199) on :
Most don;t just pck out children, but the mortality rate is much greater among both ends of our lives....children and elders are hard hit by disease. Children are because their immune systems aren't fully developed yet, and elders because their immune systems are often compromised by long illnesses and the general decline of their bodies.

The flu epidemics would be PERFECT examples of this.
Posted by The Pixiest (Member # 1863) on :
How about Scarlet Fever?
Posted by King of Men (Member # 6684) on :
Splendid, thanks. I think I have all I need. I'll post a link here to my new chapter when I publish it, although it likely won't make sense to those who haven't been reading from the start.
Posted by The Rabbit (Member # 671) on :
If you are looking for something dramatic, the Black Plague (bubonic, pneumonic and septicemic forms) is readily treatable with antibiotics.

It is also reported that in at least outbreaks of plague, children were disproportionately affected.

[ March 27, 2009, 12:57 PM: Message edited by: The Rabbit ]
Posted by King of Men (Member # 6684) on :
Good idea, but it won't work; the timeline my story is set in had a massive outbreak of modified Y. pestis a few hundred years ago, with casualties even worse than in our timeline. Immunity rates are correspondingly higher.
Posted by aspectre (Member # 2222) on : onward should give you some ideas.
If I remember correctly...
Diphtheria, whooping cough, and typhoid had mortality rates of ~20% in children under five, though the rate of infection was more than twice as high for diphtheria than for either pertussis or (I think) typhoid.

Also implicated for high death rates among young children was contaminated milk.

[ March 27, 2009, 04:59 PM: Message edited by: aspectre ]
Posted by scholarette (Member # 11540) on :
Kim Robinson wrote an interesting book where he assumed that the plague killed like 99% of Europeans. He followed what the world would be like for several thousand years, through reincarnated characters.
Posted by King of Men (Member # 6684) on :
I know, "Years of Rice and Salt." Excellent book.

Hmm. Afer consultations with my co-author, we've decided that anaphylactic shock rather than interfering with the function of antibiotics is going to be the mechanism, so I didn't need this information after all. But thanks anyway. [Smile]

Second edit: As promised, the story chapter. Scroll down to post 388.

[ March 27, 2009, 10:25 PM: Message edited by: King of Men ]
Posted by theamazeeaz (Member # 6970) on :
Today, penicillin still cures syphilis. But that disease is for big kids.
Posted by scholarette (Member # 11540) on :
Originally posted by theamazeeaz:
Today, penicillin still cures syphilis. But that disease is for big kids.

And the awesome thing about syphilis- penicillin will probably always kill it.
Posted by JennaDean (Member # 8816) on :
"the awesome thing about syphilis"

Not a phrase I ever thought I'd hear. [Smile]

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