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When we have some bacterial infection, say throat infection (pharyngitis) we take antibiotics as treatment. I was wondering how throat infection was treated when there was no antibiotics at all, before 1940's I think.

Throat infection is just example, It can be post surgical operation, urinary track infection etc, basically anything where we use antibiotics currently. So in a way replacement of antibiotic tablet when antibiotic wasn't available.

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  • $\begingroup$ health.howstuffworks.com/wellness/natural-medicine/chinese/… $\endgroup$ – Graham Chiu Feb 19 '18 at 10:36
  • $\begingroup$ The use of antibiotics to treat pharyngitis is either useless or unnecessary in most cases. (See e.g. Wikipedia article ) Such use of antibiotics has contributed to the rise of multiple drug resistant bacteria. Did you do any research of your own before posting this question? $\endgroup$ – David Feb 19 '18 at 19:54
  • $\begingroup$ I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because, although answers might provide information to contemporary biologists about medical practice in advanced industrial societies in the early twentieth century, this is not within the remit of SE Biology. $\endgroup$ – David Feb 19 '18 at 21:17
  • $\begingroup$ @David: I researched and only found out that , during some infection people used to have several cuts on the body, which will lead to blood loss and might kill the bacteria. and thought this is not the answer that I expect. I mean slitting body for just throat infection?? $\endgroup$ – sumant250 Feb 21 '18 at 3:56
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Interestingly, treatment of mild pharyngitis before the advent of antibiotics wasn't too different from what it is today - it was (and still is) mostly symptomatic. First of all, viral pharyngitis, which is quite common (Hidreth et al., 2015), is not affected by antibiotics (no viral infection is), and they are not indicated in such situations. Second, mild and self-limiting bacterial infections, including pharyngitis, most often do not warrant prescription of antibiotics, as this leads to the growing problem of antibiotic resistance, which, according to the World Health Organization is "one of the biggest threats to global health." Many guidelines can be quoted, urging clinicians to prescribe antibiotics sparingly, but pharyngitis is so common (literally everyone has had it, multiple times) that one can simply turn to one's own experience - simply put, when you have a mild case of soar throat, your doctor doesn't give you antibiotics (if you even bother going to the doctor about it), most often you are advised to take only symptomatic medications (many of which are OTC). These most often include compounds with analgesic, antiseptic, and/or anti-inflammatory properties. Interestingly, such compounds were widely available long before the advent of antibiotics and even the pharmaceutical industry itself.

Menthol, for example, is a selective agonist of κ-opioid (Galeotti et al., 2002) and a modulator of GABBAa receptors (Watt et al., 2008), thereby eliciting analgesic and anaesthetic effects, respectively. Moreover, by disrupting bacterial cell membranes, menthol (and similar compounds, such as thymol, for example), elicit antibacterial activity, as well (Trombetta et al., 2005). Thus, wild mint, peppermint, and thyme are much more often indicated in cases of soar throat than antibiotics! Their use in the form of infusions and decoctions likely predates most, if not all, modern countries. Moreover, the analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties of willow bark, which are due to the salicylic acid contained therein, were known to Hippocrates (Norn et al., 2009), quite possibly dating back much earlier. Furthermore, it is known that caffeine potentiates the analgesic effects of many nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, including salicilic acid (Granados-Soto and Castañeda-Hernández, 1999). Unsurprisingly, this combination is often found in many modern drugs (many OTC), being marketed all over the world. Whether this effect was known before the advent of the pharma industry, however, is hard to say. Willow bark has been used as an analgesic and anti-inflammatory medication since ancient times, but coffee was brought to the West in the XVI century.

This is only a handful of traditional medications for pharyngitis, and I'm sure many more can be found, as well as many other treatments for many other conditions. The point is that treatments of mild pharyngitis were available before the advent of antibiotics, as a matter of fact, many of those treatments are still first-line therapy in most cases, even to this day.

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  • $\begingroup$ "In those times". 1940s US and Western Europe? Have you actually done any research on the history of medicine? $\endgroup$ – David Feb 19 '18 at 19:48
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, I have, and the question referred to the entire period of human history before the 1940s, all over the world. What makes you think of the US and Western Europe specifically? $\endgroup$ – Stefan Feb 19 '18 at 20:34
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    $\begingroup$ No, it is not obvious that the question refers to a specific place because it simply doesn't, that's entirely your own (mis)interpretation. Nowhere does it refer to a specific place, it asks what people used before the introduction of antibiotics, i.e. it applies to any place people live. Asking for references is a fair comment, of course, and I will gladly provide references after a proper lit search, I'm just not going to do it around midnight. $\endgroup$ – Stefan Feb 19 '18 at 20:43
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    $\begingroup$ I was simply answering the question but you make a good point that I should make my answer more mechanism-oriented. I will try to find the time tomorrow to improve and substantiate my answer, hopefully turning your downvote into an upvote. $\endgroup$ – Stefan Feb 19 '18 at 21:32
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    $\begingroup$ @Stefan: Exactly!. my question is not location specific. Its for entire world. $\endgroup$ – sumant250 Feb 21 '18 at 6:14
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http://www.eliava-institute.org/?rid=6 Bacteriophages. Institute in Georgia

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  • $\begingroup$ Please do not post link only answers. $\endgroup$ – Chris Mar 24 '18 at 17:17
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Bacteriophages were used to treat infectious diseases in some places, most notably the Republic of Georgia, before antibiotics became popular. The advent of antibiotics, which many thought heralded the end of infectious diseases, unfortunately resulted in less interest in therapeutic bacteriophages.

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    $\begingroup$ Could you add some reference? $\endgroup$ – LinuxBlanket Feb 20 '18 at 11:07
  • $\begingroup$ Can you somehow prove that bacteriophages are used to treat pharyngitis in Georgia? $\endgroup$ – Stefan Feb 21 '18 at 11:32

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