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Saranac Lake state sanatorium, Adirondacks, NY

Early Treatment

Sanatorium treatment became the only chance for survival, as well as the mechanism to reduce disease transmission for tuberculosis (TB). The treatment, established by Hermann Brehmer, included institutional isolation where fresh air, rest, and good nutrition served to rehabilitate the patient. Brehmer had experienced a similar cure for his own TB by leaving his home in Germany and traveling to the Himalayas. After presenting his findings in his 1854 medical dissertation, he opened the first sanatorium to treat TB in a hospital in Germany. In the US, Edward Trudeau, another scientist-victim of the disease, established the sanatorium at Saranac Lake in the Adirondack Mountains of New York, where TB research in the US first began.
These institutions served to isolate patients from the general population, allowing person-to-person transmission to rapidly decline, while promoting healing and recovery. Although there continued to be patients who did not survive, those who improved were able to return to their homes and resume healthy lives.
In the early 1900s, an effort to immunize humans was attempted by two scientists working with an attenuated strain of M. bovis, first inoculated to cattle, horses, rabbits, and guinea pigs. Named the bacille Calmette-Guerin (BCG) vaccine after researchers Calmette and Guerin, the vaccine continues to be protective in children with a negative skin test, in health-care workers, and selected groups who are constantly exposed to infection with TB.