Inevitably, patients began to die in the throes of fever, their limbs thrashing violently, in what would today be recognized as shock. Worryingly, this sometimes happened even to patients whose phthisis had seemed to be in remission. Undoubtedly, some died because the general rule was to increase the dose gradually, even if low doses provoked severe reactions. In the thrall surrounding the treatment, though, these unfortunates were quickly dismissed as having been beyond help to begin with.
In all, it was an uncontrolled, absolutely chaotic process, closer to anarchy than experimentation. But the enthusiasm for a cure was such that a sense of euphoria overtook even those who should have been immune, including Lord Lister. In late 1890 he visited Berlin with his niece, who had a case of consumption. Though Koch greatly admired Lister, it would be a week before he could see him and arrange for treatment. Upon his return to London, in an address at King’s College Hospital, Lister gave the remedy his full endorsement. “The effects . . . are simply astounding,” he said, comparing the effect to Pasteur’s anthrax vaccine. Lister even endorsed the secrecy of the cure. Even now, weeks into an experiment being conducted upon thousands of individuals across the globe, nobody outside Koch’s lab knew what was being injected into so many people.
On a different note, I will probably finish the book tonight. The parts about the disease and the medical research and history of germ theory have been far better than any of the parts about Conan Doyle, which seems to support my impressions after reading the introduction to the book that the attempt to link this story to ACD is more of a marketing ploy than a substantiated link.
But, I still have a couple of chapters to read. (The book contains about 50 pages of references.)