Read before the annual meeting of The International Hahnemannian Association, New York, June, 1925.
Immunity is defined as: that condition of the living body which renders it secure against any particular disease.
Every infections disease is the result of a struggle between two variable factors–the pathogenic powers of the infection on the one hand, and the resistance of the subject on the other; each of these is again modified by variations in the conditions under which the struggle takes place. Thus a given infection may be capable of causing a fatal result in one individual but may be only moderately virulent or even entirely innocuous for another.
Conversely the same individual may be highly susceptible to one variety of disease but entirely resistant to others. The susceptibility or resistance of the individual varies with his physiological state or by the environmental conditions under which the two factors–invader and invaded–are brought together. Therefore, immunity can never be properly discussed without careful consideration of all modifying conditions which influence it.
There are two forms of immunity–natural and acquired.
Natural immunity is that innate power of the body to throw off or to overcome any diseased condition with which it may come in contact. To a certain extent, of course, this escape from harm is due to the external defenses of skin and mucous membrane which, in the healthy state, mechanically prevent the entrance of infection into the body.
Moreover, added to this, there is some protection in the bactericidal properties of the secretions; and the activity of the blood serum and the phagocytic powers of the leukocytes. These forces are active against all diseases, but they may vary in different races, or even individuals, in potency against any given infections agent, and, to a certain extent, variations in resistance may be referable to this.
Acquired immunity is secured by an innoculation with a specific virus, vaccine or antitoxin, or by a previous illness. It is divided into Active and Passive. If the subject is stimulated to develop its own immunity by the injection of dead parasites or their metabolic products, the resulting stage is called one of Active Immunity.
However, if the blood serum of an immune animal be injected into a normal one the resulting condition is known as Passive Immunity.
Hahnemann in his Organon shows us how the body acts under different conditions. First, if two dissimilar diseases meet in the same body, and if the older one be stronger, the new one will be repelled and not allowed to affect the body. A patient suffering from a chronic disease will not be affected by a moderate epidemic. In any violent epidemic there are always some individuals who go through it unscathed, and we wonder how they escape. A large number of these fortunate ones have unusually strong, vigorous bodies, and their state of health is good.
Again, we will find quite a number who are anything but strong and healthy–one may have tuberculosis, another may be in the last stages of Brights disease, and possibly the next may be suffering from diabetes; but in any case, the stronger chronic disease prevents the accession of the weaker epidemic one, which is dissimilar. Rachitis, according to Jenner, prevents smallpox vaccination from taking effect.
Under other than homoeopathic treatment the old chronic disease remains uncured and unaltered, i.e., it is not affected by medicines which are incapable of producing in a healthy individual the state of health found in the diseased condition which has been encountered, provided the treatment is not carried on too long or too violently, in which case other diseases are formed in its place, which are most difficult to cure and more dangerous to life.
Second, a new and more intense disease suspends a prior and dissimilar one, already existing in the body, only so long as the former continues but it never cures. A patient who had been suffering from smallpox for six days acquired measles. The inflammation from smallpox remained stationery until the desquamation of the measles, after which the smallpox continued to run its regular course, appearing on the sixteenth day about as an ordinary case would look on the tenth. This shows that dissimilars cannot cure, but only suppress, and that as soon as the stronger disease disappears, the weaker one will take up its course as if it had not been interfered with.
To illustrate this farther: A patient is suffering from Brights disease in the early stages, but still far enough along to make a diagnosis. He contracts syphilis; his kidney condition seems to clear up; albumen disappears; his waxiness fades away and he appears to be better.
After a years treatment his syphilitic symptoms may be conquered, and as they leave, the albumen returns in the urine; the waxiness come back and the patient goes on to the terminal stages of an ordinary Brights.
Third, a chronic disease may be held in abeyance or seemingly be made to disappear by the use of violent medication. A patient suffering with malaria has been “cured”–so called–by massive doses of quinine, but the patient is not well. The artificial drug disease of quinine has been engrafted upon the underlying malarial diathesis, and the patient is worse off than he was previously. Proper homoeopathic treatment will antidote the quinine and then the malaria will manifest itself again; the chills and fever will return and can then be cured by the application of the proper homoeopathic remedy.
On the other hand, a new disease, after acting for some time, may join itself to the old dissimilar one and thus form a complex or complication of two dissimilar diseases, neither of which is capable of curing or annihilating the other. Each of these seem to occupy the part or organ peculiarly adapted for it, or as it were, the only place belonging to it, leaving the rest of the body to the other.
For instance, a syphilide may become psoric. These diseases, being dissimilar, cannot cure or remove each other. At first the venereal symptoms are kept in abeyance as the psoric eruption appears. In the course of time, however, they may join together and then each seeks the part most appropriate to it. This renders the patient more diseased and more difficult to cure.
Much more frequently than a superadded natural disease is a superadded artificial disease, caused by the long-continued use of violent unsuitable remedies. This combines a drug disease with a prior natural disease, and being dissimilar, a cure is impossible. Frequently, cases of venereal chancre are complicated with condylomatous gonorrhea.
This condition cannot be cured by long-continued or frequently repeated treatments with large doses of unsuitable mercury preparations, but assumes its place in the organism beside the chronic mercury affection that has in the mean-time gradually developed, for mercury besides the morbid symptoms which, by virtue of similarity, can cure venereal diseases homoeopathically has also among its effects many others unlike those of syphilis, such as swelling and ulceration of bones.
If large doses of mercury be given, the new malady will be engrafted upon the patient, engendering fresh evils and committing terrible ravages upon the body.
The result is entirely different, however, when two similar diseases meet together in the same organism. They cannot, as in the case of dissimilar disease, repel each other; neither can they suspend one another to return at a later time nor can they exist together side by side: but the stronger must, and will, annihilate the weaker because they both act on the same parts of the body. In the same way, that the rays of a lamp are rapidly effaced from the retina by a sunbeam which strikes the eye with greater force.
It is claimed by many that acquired immunity may be obtained by injecting various substances into the body, such as antidiphtheritic serum for the cure or prevention of diphtheria; the injection of toxin-antitoxin, commonly called the Schick Test, to ascertain the patients susceptibility to diphtheria, and to develop immunity against the disease.
Vaccination is used to protect against typhoid fever, smallpox, cholera, plague, dysentery, staphylococcus infection, acne, gonorrhea, pneumonia, and many other diseases, for some of which autogenous vaccines are also used. Favorable results seem to have been obtained in a great many cases, but on the other hand, bad results are not unknown–sudden death has occurred immediately following the administration of some of these agencies, as shown by Underhill.
From all of these studies we can only reach the conclusion, that the best immunity is that offered by a normal, vigorous body, maintained in a healthy condition.