Germ theory denialism is the belief held by those with pseudoscientific and alternative health views that ‘germs’ do not cause disease. They will typically argue that the ‘germs’ (micro-organisms) are not the cause of disease, but are a symptom of it. Over 100 years of experimental, observational and clinical evidence as well as the overwhelming preponderance of expert opinion support the germ theory of disease.
Germ Theory of Disease:
The germ theory of disease is basically the concept that microorganisms (bacteria, protists and fungi) or non-living (viruses and prions) can invade humans and can cause infectious diseases. Louis Pasteur was one of the first proponents of the germ theory of diseases with his experiments showing that diseases could be prevented by stopping germs. In the 19th century, Robert Koch developed his four basic criteria (known as Koch’s postulates) directed at demonstrating in a scientific way that a disease is caused by a particular organism. Even in the 19th century, it was clear that some infectious agents were obviously responsible for a disease even though they did not fulfill all of the Koch’s postulates (because of asymptomatic carriers with the infection; the presence of subclinical infections; not all of those exposed to an infectious agent will get the infection; and certain microorganisms cannot be grown in culture). This shortcoming of the original postulates from 1876 is used as evidence against the germ theory by denialists. There has been much development and understanding of the topic since Koch’s original thesis.
What do the the germ theory denialists believe in?:
The central tenet of the belief is that Koch’s postulates are wrong and that ‘germs’ get attracted to the environment of the diseased tissue and are not the cause of the disease. They believe that a good diet and healthy living will keep people healthy as their immune systems will be “100%” effective.
Germ Theory Denialism and COVID-19:
During the rollout of vaccines in the COVID-19 pandemic, anti-vaccination activists used germ theory denialism to promote their views. They lied as the evidence clearly showed that SARS-CoV-2 virus causes COVID-19 and it meets all of Koch’s postulates.
Video explanation of germ theory denialism:
Relevance to Podiatry:
A number of conditions seen in the foot are caused by infectious agents such as plantar warts, pitted keratolysis, onychomycosis and tinea pedis. Germ theory denialists would beleive that they are not infections and that the microorgaism allegedly causing them is only there as they are attracted to the damaged tissue.
Infection control procedures during clinical practice and surgery are based on the germ theory.
- No germ theory denialist has been willing to come forward and volunteer to drink a container of infectious microorganisms that they claim do not cause disease.
- Germ theory denialists often like to claim that Koch recanted his postulates on his death bed. There is no evidence that he did that. They are making that up.
- The belief in germ theory denialism puts everyone at risk when it prevents people from actively preventing the spread of contagious diseases (eg hand washing, social distancing, isolation).
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