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Gerhard Domagk Contribution to Epidemiology

Epidemiology
delves into the patterns and distribution of diseases among different
populations. Besides, the discipline provides an in-depth analysis of the causes
of various infections and evaluates evidence-based strategies to prevent these
conditions. From Alexander Fleming’s discovery of penicillin in 1928 to William
C. Campbell’s invention of roundworms treatment in 2015, it is apparent that
various personalities have contributed to the development of epidemiology
(Chellat, Raguž & Riedl, 2016). However, the works of Gerhard Domagk in
epidemiology are not widely known. Hence, the study investigates the forgotten
discoveries of antibiotic therapies made by Gerhard Domagk. 

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Gerhard
Johannes Paul Domagk, son of a teacher, was born on October 30, 1859, in a town known as Lagow in present
Poland. His interest in medicine culminated when he joined University of Kiel’s
medical school and earned his degree in 1921 (Grundmann, 2004). He joined
Ernest Hoppe-Seyler where he worked as an assistant chemist until 1924. From
1924 to 1925, Domagk taught pathology at the University of Greifswald and later
joined the University of Munster. Domagk became the director of Bayer
Laboratory for Experimental Pathology and Bacteriology in 1927 (Grundmann,
2004).

Between
the 1920s and 1930s, Europe and the United States of America experienced
rampant streptococcal and staphylococcal infections (Grundmann, 2004). It
prompted research to find remedies, and Domagk was intrigued by these bacterial
infections. While at the Bayer Research Laboratories, Domagk studied
anti-bacterial abilities of azo-dyes. His studies became evident in 1932 when
he discovered that red dye-stuff (Prontosil Rubrum) protected rabbits and mice
against the infections caused by hemolytic streptococci and staphylococci
microorganisms (Grundmann, 2004). The Prontosil red dye was tried, and through
clinical evidenced-based research in 1935, it was approved for human treatment
of infections involving streptococcal bacteria (Grundmann, 2004). Domagk proved
the clinical effectiveness of Prontosil when he used it to treat his daughter.

The
Prontosil rubrum was identified as
-4’sulfonamide-2-4-diaminoazobenzole, a
derivative of sulfanilamide (Grundmann, 2004). The sulfa drugs were considered
effective against selected bacteria, and in 1928, L.E.H. Whitby developed the
sulfapyridine, a drug choice for the treatment of pneumococcal pneumonia
(Grundmann, 2004). In 1939, Domagk earned Nobel Prize for Prontosil discovery
but turned the offer down because Nazi policy never acknowledged such accolades.
However, he was later given the award in 1947 (Grundmann, 2004).

According
to Grundmann (2004), Domagk also made significant contributions in the treatment
of cancer and tuberculosis. In 1946, Domagk, F. Mietzsch, R. Behnisch, H.
Schmidt worked together on a tuberculostatic procedure in vitro by using
thiosemicarbazones. Due to the ineffectiveness of the latter, various studies
were conducted an in 1948, nicotinamides, derivatives of isonicotinic acids
were found effective in the treatment of mycobacteria (Chellat et al, 2016). In
1952, an intermediate product known as isonicotinoylhydrazine
(isoniazid) was clinically tested and approved for treatment of tuberculosis in
humans. The drug is used as a combination therapy for tuberculosis in the
current practice.

Domagk
recognized the principal role of chemotherapy in cancer treatment. He
experimented with ethylene-iminquinones
with limited success. However, he researched the field of carcinogenesis.
Domagk found out the carcinogenic nature of methyl-cholanthren substances and benzopyrene (Grundmann, 2004). The
carcinogens cause abnormal degradation of chemicals and bilious acid in the
body, a concept accepted in oncology studies today. Besides, Domagk illustrated
that nutrition is related to the development of cancer cells. He found out the
association of cholesterol to the growth of tumor cells. He encouraged a modest
diet composed of low proteins and low fats as remedies to carcinogenesis.
Moreover, he emphasized that a significant proportion of diets should be made
of vegetables and fruits to deter the regeneration of tumor cells (Chellat et
al, 2016). His breakthroughs are used today as benchmarks for the development
of proper diets for nonmedical therapies for cancer.

Concisely,
the works of Gerhard Domagk have contributed to the effective control of
infectious diseases and non-communicable conditions such as cancer. Cure and
control of illnesses such as pneumonia and tuberculosis can thus be considered
the brainchild of Domagk (Grundmann, 2004). His contribution in epidemiology
has laid the standards for current and future research in the development of
therapies for pneumonia, tuberculosis, and cancer (Chellat et al, 2016).    

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