Fevers and Blood poisoning

“As Aconite is well known to be the most important of the remedies for the synochal or inflammatory pyrexia, so the most summary indication for Pyrogen would be to term it the Aconite of the typhous or typhoid quality of pyrexia. This being a condition and not a distinct disease, it is to be looked for as occurring in a variety of diseases such as the typhous and enteric fevers themselves always, and more or less it may occur in intermittents, so-called bilious remittents, in certain varieties or stages of the exanthemata, especially scarlatina, measles, and smallpox, of dysentery, and of epidemic pneumonias, diphtheria, etc.

From the gastro-enteric symptoms Pyrogen may possibly also apply to some stage of cholera and to yellow fever. It is, of course, to be distinctly understood that this substance is only recommended. at certain stages and phases of these disease, and entirely as a remedy of a secondary or subordinate character, and not in any sense as a specific for the whole disease.

“Sepsin or Pyrogen, it must be remembered, is only a chemical poison, like Atropin or serpent venom, whose action is definite and limited by the dose, and it is incapable of inducing an indefinitely reproducible disease in minimal dose, after the manner of the special poisons of the specific fevers; its sphere, therefore, is by no means commensurate with that of these diseases, and if ever true specifics for them should be discovered, it is hardly probable that such would be merely chemical non-living agents.

At present there is no questions at all of such specifics. The only point is that we should be able to form an intelligible idea of the way in which a margin can be supposed to exist in individual cases, say of enteric fever, smallpox, or yellow fever, etc., in which a directly acting medicine can do good to the pyrexia without at the same time having any power to check, modify, or shorten the true specific disease.

Observation, I think, shows that such a margin exists, for we are all familiar with the immense variety in the degree of severity, especially as regards the pyrexia existing between cases of the same specific fever in different individuals, while at the same time the cardinal symptoms are pronounced sufficiently to leave no doubt of the diagnosis, and the completeness of the specific process is also shown by the protection against subsequent attacks being as complete after the sight cases as after the more severe. In scarlatina and small pox both these circumstances are notorious, and the astonishing mildness of the pyrexia in some cases of enteric fever, in which the local diseased process runs its full course, is well known.

“When we take these facts in connection with the theory of Beale that not all-nay, not even the majority-of the new bioplasts, whose formation and continued multiplications constitutes the essence of fever and inflammation, are, in a specific contagious disease, themselves specific, and capable of conveying the disease, we can easily see that there may be in each specific fever a large margin of non-specific febrile action or protoplasmic change.

It may be, and probably is, this which gives the severity and fatality to certain cases by its excessive amount rather than the greater intensity of the specific process, owing to increased susceptibilities of the patient towards the specific poison, although no doubt that is also a factor of importance in the variations of severity in different individuals.

At all events, we easily see from the above considerations the reasonableness of the expectation that any remedy which could moderate and control the concomitant non- specific pyrexia in the specific fevers would thereby palpably diminish the average mortality, even though it could not cut short the specific disease itself. Whether Pyrogen be such a remedy remains to be seen; at present we have only to show that a place is open for a possible agent of this kind.

Our expectations, also, must not be pitched too high, because, for innumerable reasons, as we all know, a considerable mortality must attend all the severe specific fevers, and the margin wherein positive curative treatment adds to the value of good negative treatment is not large. Beside, from the very character of the symptoms and stage of the disease for which this remedy is indicated, it must often be in the position of a forlorn hope. Therefore it is only by the statistical comparison of a large number of cases that we can determine how far lives have been saved by it.

“The known specific fevers do not by any means exhaust the possible sphere of a remedy for the `typhous’ condition of pyrexia; for, although it is no longer the fashion to speak of the synochus of Cullen, yet, as far as my experiences goes (and I doubt not other practitioners will agree with me), the list of species or varieties of continued fever in this country is by no means exhausted when we name the inflammatory, rheumatic, typhus, enteric, and relapsing.

On the contrary, we all meet with cases of fever which cannot be distinctly referred to local lesion, and cannot be fairly brought under any of the above names, and for want of a more definite appellation we have to speak of as catarrhal, gastric, or bilious fever, or describe in some such vague way. Many of these are synochal, and require Aconite at the outset, while in the later stages a more adynamic state sets in, supposed to require stimulants, thus corresponding to the synochus of Cullen.

In the specific fevers also, there may occur more or less of this primary and secondary quality of the pyrexia requiring Aconite at the first stage and (should our anticipation prove correct) Pyrogen at the later stages. Doubtless Cullen, his contemporaries, and for long his successors, described and treated as synochus many cases of continued fever, which were, in reality, enteric, or even relapsing, before Henderson separated the latter or Jenner the former, from the general mass of continued fevers; and, no doubt, we are all doing the same in respect to other species to be discriminated in future.

But this is of less consequence as regards medicinal treatment as long as we are guided by indications for a particular quality of pyrexia, and not the concrete disease in which that may occur. If the discrimination of enteric fever as a species may be correctly held to explain away synochus in part, yet can we admit that the supervention of bacterial growth at the later stage will account for all the rest? Certainly, in that case, the sepsin of the bacteria would produce a state of blood analogous to the `typhous’ state, and if itself the cause would of course exclude our remedy.”

I make no apology for appropriating so much of DR. Drysdale’s little treatise “On Pyrexin or Pyrogen as a Therapeutic Agent.” as I should not like either to hold its author responsible for my views as to the value in pyrexia of this new and powerful agent, or to appear to claim his.

Let us now go to what evidence I myself have of the clinical value of Pyrogen.

Miss C. M. A., aet. twelve years and eleven months, was taken ill in February 1885 at her parent’s seat in Sussex-one of the healthiest spots in the country. On the night of Monday the 16th she had a headache; felt hot and sick, and could not sleep.

On Tuesday the 17th she went to London for the day; felt sick, cold, and hysterical on her homeward journey; was very sick on reaching home; had headache; was restless, and talked a good deal in her sleep. Her mother gave her Pulsatilla.

On Wednesday the 18th she stayed in bed to breakfast; she was feverish, disinclined for food, and hysterical; complained of pain in her abdomen; all her bones ached; her legs felt as if she could not move them. Her mother gave her Aconite and Chelidonium in alternation.

On Thursday the 19th she was much the same as on the preceding day; she cried a good deal; fancied she was mice and people about in her bedroom; tongue thickly coated; cannot bear any talking noise, or light. Her mother continued with the Aconite, but substituted Mercurius sol. for the Chelidonium.

On Friday the 20th I find this note recorded: Did not sleep last night for more than half an hour at a time; muttered and talked and tossed about in her sleep; complains of headache; pains in her back, arms, and jaws; she dozes for a few minutes and then awakes wandering in her mind; will partake of nothing but water and a little milk.

6 p.m T. 103.2 degree

8.45 p.m. T. 104 degree

11 p.m. T. 103.4 degree

With an Aconite-resisting temperature of 103 degree to 104 degree the child’s mother-a clever, capable, and altogether a remarkable woman-knew that danger was ahead. She knew well, from practical life-experience, that when Aconite fails to bring down the fever, you must prepare for the enemy of pyrexia properly so- called, or for a more or less serious something.

Accordingly the local allopathic medical man was called in, and he very carefully examined the patient, but found nothing but a spot on the left tonsil. The temperature he found to be 103.4 degree and the pulse 132. In the absence of pain or distinct feature beyond the pyrexia, he gave as his opinion that it, was an attack of herpes, of which he had some cases in the neighbourhood, and in which the fever ran rapidly up as high as he found Miss A’s., and then became normal as rapidly as it had run up, and he expressed, accordingly, the hope that this case would do the same.

James Compton Burnett
James Compton Burnett was born on July 10, 1840 and died April 2, 1901. Dr. Burnett attended medical school in Vienna, Austria in 1865. Alfred Hawkes converted him to homeopathy in 1872 (in Glasgow). In 1876 he took his MD degree.
Burnett was one of the first to speak about vaccination triggering illness. This was discussed in his book, Vaccinosis, published in 1884. He introduced the remedy Bacillinum. He authored twenty books, including the much loved "Fifty Reason for Being a Homeopath." He was the editor of The Homoeopathic World.