Koch and Pasteur: Showdown in the Microbial Kingdom

  On August 2, 1881, the Seventh International Medical Conference was held at St. James’s Palace in London. The conference brought together the elites of the scientific community, and the 3,000 attendees gave a round of applause to one of their colleagues. Who was it that caused such a stir? He was 59-year-old Louis Pasteur. This man, who has long been famous in the world, wears steel-rimmed glasses, has a neatly trimmed beard, and is awe-inspiring. He took the podium and delivered a terrific speech.
  Offstage, a 38-year-old German doctor listened intently. He was Robert Koch, who made his debut as the discoverer of Bacillus anthracis, the causative agent of anthrax. Pasteur mentioned Koch’s work in his speech. Is he paying tribute to German doctors? No, he was more of reiterating that he was the first to discover bacterial spores. Six days later, the two men met again for the first and only time in Joseph Lister’s laboratory. Koch showed Pasteur the photomicrograph and solid medium, and the latter held his hand in congratulations: “That’s a huge step forward, sir.” That compliment, however, marked a 15-year duel. Start.
| Showdown between Germany and France |

  Pasteur was not a born scholar. Pasteur was born in Dole, Jura, France on December 27, 1822. His father, Jean-Joseph, was a leather merchant and a loyal follower of Napoleon, who had joined the 3rd Infantry. Pasteur wrote in an essay in memory of his father: “My dear father, your life is as difficult as your occupation, and you have taught me that long efforts will eventually bear fruit in patient waiting. The perseverance of the work is due to you.” Pasteur showed extraordinary perseverance in adolescence. Although he loves science, his grades are not good. After a failure in the college entrance examination, he finally passed the mathematics test in 1842 through unremitting efforts. The following year, he entered the Ecole Normale Supérieure de Paris. Subsequently, he obtained the physics teacher qualification certificate, and his career prospects are bright.
  If Pasteur is a man without talent, then Koch can be called a genius. On November 11, 1843, Koch was born in Clausthal, Saxony, Germany (when Pasteur was already working). The young Koch excelled in science classes, spending his spare time hiking in the mountains and forests, studying various insects and plants. At the age of 19, he was admitted to the University of Göttingen, where he received his medical degree in 1866.
  Four years later, the Franco-Prussian War broke out. Although Pasteur and Koch still knew nothing about each other at the time, the war ended up being a prerequisite for their later rivalry. Although Pasteur was a staunch patriot and a good friend of Napoleon III, he did not care about the war, because he suffered a stroke two years ago and his health was not as good as before, and he had to return to his home in Arbois to recover. However, in January 1871, when he learned that his son Jean-Baptiste had disappeared in a war, he still inquired about his son regardless of his illness, but he finally found it. On the way to find his son, he saw the country and the army devastated by the war, so he vowed: “Until the last day of my life, all my academic writings will be inscribed like this: I hate Prussia. Revenge! Revenge!” On the contrary, Koch enjoyed the joy of victory in the war. And, thanks to the war, he treated many typhoid patients and wounded soldiers as a doctor, and his medical practice made great strides as a result.
| Bacteria Battle |

  Five years later, in October 1876, Koch published a world-renowned article: he discovered and cultivated Bacillus anthracis and injected it into house mice, which eventually died of anthrax. This is a major discovery, and experiments seem to show that the bacteria is the cause of anthrax. Unconvinced Pasteur also began to invest in anthracnose research, and then confirmed the role of bacteria. In 1908, the Nobel Prize winner for medicine and the famous Russian microbiologist Mechnikov said when evaluating the work of the two: “Thanks to the French Pasteur, people can understand the true meaning of Bacillus anthracis; thanks to the German Koch, we have proved that Bacillus anthracis is the only pathogen of anthrax.” However, this “equal” evaluation has intensified the opposition between the two scientists. In 1881, after returning from an international medical conference in London, Koch wrote an article that sparked the war: “Pasteur could not identify Bacillus anthracis, and his experiments were worthless, even naive.” Faced with these attacks , Pasteur responded openly at the International Medical Conference in Geneva in 1882: “The evaluation of Dr. Koch and his students is completely untenable, and exposes the flaws and inexperience of the critics.” The poor eloquence Koch The only way to fight back is through medical journals: “Pasteur is not even a doctor, and we cannot expect him to make correct judgments about pathological processes and symptoms.”
  During this period, Koch discovered and cultivated the tuberculosis bacillus, which made Pasteur more annoyed. When Koch’s article was published on March 24, 1882, it caused an immediate sensation. Tuberculosis was earlier responsible for one in five deaths in Europe. Koch completed the experiment of growing Mycobacterium tuberculosis outside the human body in only seven months, and his name has been in the annals of history ever since.
| Fierce competition in Egypt |

  In June 1883, cholera began to ravage Egypt, killing more than 500 people every day. Europe was worried about the spread of the disease, after all cholera had been rampant in London and Paris as early as 1831 and 1832. So Pasteur sent an expedition, led by his student Emile Rue, to Alexandria on August 15, 1883. The goal of this operation is to identify the cause of cholera, and better dare to be in front of the “damn German doctor”! On August 24, Koch arrived in Alexandria. At this time, the nightmare of Pasteur’s expedition had just begun: not only did their expeditions fail, but Pasteur’s most beloved student, Louis Tillier, died young from cholera. Soon after the epidemic was over, the French decided to give up the competition and went home. On the other hand, Koch, still undeterred, decided to visit the source of the cholera. In December 1883, he came to India, the cradle of the epidemic, and discovered in Calcutta the importance of water in the spread of cholera. Three weeks later, he declared his victory in a communiqué sent to Berlin: “The bacterium found in the intestines of infected patients is the causative agent of cholera.” Pasteur was shocked when he heard the news.
  In July 1884, the cholera epidemic spread to Toulon, France. A team led by Pasteur rushed to the scene, but the French government also invited Koch. The German doctor’s advice: Avoid contaminating drinking water to control the spread of the disease. Koch proved to be a great success: the epidemic was completely contained, and he was awarded a knighthood by French Foreign Minister Joufféry. This is a shame for Pasteur.

In August 1883, Koch traveled to Egypt to try to identify the cause of cholera.
| Ending: Pasteur shines, Koch misses opportunity |

  ”May rabies save face for us.” After the defeat in Toulon, Pasteur’s wish finally came true at the Copenhagen International Medical Conference in August 1884: the scientist who had been working on rabies research for four years came up with the order Happy results. In late 1884, the first rabies vaccine was used in canine experiments, and 40 dogs were successfully vaccinated. On July 6, 1885, a woman called Pasteur for help with her nine-year-old son Joseph Meister, who had been bitten by a dog the previous day. Should I risk vaccinating him? Pasteur gave Meister 13 shots after consulting two doctors. On August 22, 1885, Pasteur was overjoyed: “I am glad that this success belongs to France, and that the first successful case of human rabies prevention came from Alsace!” It is worth mentioning that, since 1871 Alsace has been a German territory since 2000! All this was seen by Koch. So, when the 10th International Medical Conference opened in Berlin, the German doctor planned to “recover lost ground”. He caused another stir when he announced at the conference that he had discovered a cure for tuberculosis. However, his research was immature: tuberculin, which was seen as a miracle drug, did not cure tuberculosis at all. The media have compared Koch to a charlatan. Despite the failure of the study, Koch was appointed director of the Berlin Institute for Infectious Diseases in 1891, though his reputation has since been tarnished. Pasteur died on September 28, 1895, at the height of his fame. In the months before his death, he rejected the Prussian Order of Knighthood. Without a competitor, Koch made no further major discoveries in the 15 years before his death.