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Image of the Week: Tuberculosis sanatorium

18 Mar, 2016

L0074520 Sun therapy at Alton Hospital Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images Child patients lying outside in beds on a terrace outside the Hospital of Alton, Hampshire, in the sun as part of their therapy. Caption reads: Out on the Terrace Photograph 1937 Alton 1908-1929-1937 : the unconventional tribute of an outsider. Lord Mayor Treloar Cripples Hospital and College (Alton, Hampshire, England) Published: 1937] Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0

Every year on 24 March, World TB Day commemorates the day in 1882 that Dr Robert Koch identified the tubercle bacillus as the cause of the disease. Despite advances in modern medicine, TB is still endemic in many parts of the world, causing nearly 1.5 million deaths every year.

Today, TB treatment often involves prolonged use of a combination of antibiotics to reduce the risk of the bacteria becoming resistant. In this photograph taken in 1937, children are undergoing a very different type of treatment, common throughout Europe from the late 19th century.

Sanatoriums were based on the belief of Hermann Brehmer, a German physician who thought that TB arose due the heart’s inability to irrigate the lungs. He proposed that areas high above sea level, with plentiful fresh air and good nutrition, were the key to curing the disease and established Brehmersche Heilanstalt für Lungenkranke (Brehmersche Sanatorium for Lung Patients) in Görbersdorf.

After Brehmer’s death, the sanatorium movement spread throughout Europe and even into metropolitan areas at low altitudes. The choice of climate was varied, from high-altitude Alps resorts such as Davos, to the dry air and sun of Arizona, USA. Soon after this photo was taken, sanatoriums began to close after the antibiotic streptomycin was discovered as the first cure for TB in 1943.

In 2016, TB continues to be one of the top infectious disease killers in the world and ending the epidemic by 2030 is a health target of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

Image credit: Child patients lying outside in beds on a terrace outside the Hospital of Alton, Hampshire, in the sun as part of their therapy. 1937. Wellcome Library, London

One Comment leave one →
  1. 20 Mar, 2016 9:55 am

    Reblogged this on Historic Hospitals and commented:
    Some of the most distinctive hospital buildings.

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