Wednesday, January 27, 2016

1700: Ramazzini discovers occupational asthma

Ramazzine, from the title page of his book.
Most modern experts are impressed by Ramazzini's observations regarding occupational disease. Had his ideas been accepted, this would have greatly improved the quality of life for all those exposed to fumes, dusts and other such microscopic substances. 

However, as we observe many times in this history, sometimes new ideas are not generally accepted.  While the ideas of Ramazzini were duly noted by his peers, his ideas were not generally accepted by the medical community for another 250 years after the publication of his book.  

While modern experts marvel at the observations of Ramazzini, they have access to wisdom that Ramazzini did not have.

For instance, among the observations Ramazzini made during his survey of occupations was a high number of people who worked as sifters and millers who presented with dypsnea and cachectia. He diagnosed these men with asthma.

The modern expert knows that the true diagnosis of these men was probably not asthma but pneumoccociniosis, hypersensitivity pneumonitis, extrinsic allergic alveolitis, or farmer's lung

It's an inflammatory reaction caused by the repeated inhalation of particles small enough (less than 5 μm) to reach the lung parenchyma and evoke an immune response.

As Ramazzini recognized, chronic exposure can lead to respiratory disease, cor pulmonale, and an untimely death.

This was an impressive observation at such an early time in our history.  It's too bad his advice wasn't heeded by his peers.

Ramazinni cures occupational asthma

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