The members of one troop of the Bonn hussars regiment had daily doses of 0.5 gm. of sulphate of quinin in whisky for three weeks. This troop, in comparison with others, had a very small number of influenza patients. I regard this as mere coincidence, and as little convincing as the experiment carried out by Tranjen in a similar manner in a battalion of infantry in Sistova (Bulgaria). Nor does the latest communication by Sinclair-Coghill convert us to the hypothesis of the prophylactic action of quinin. We share the opinion, expressed in the German army report, which says that "from a single such experiment no conclusions can be drawn." The prophylactic action of the quinin is exceedingly questionable. The cadets of the military school in Glogau regularly had quinin administered to them in wine, "and without the slightest success," for this military school was visited by a very severe epidemic (German army report). Spillmann (Nancy) also did not observe the slightest result from the prophylactic action of quinin. Of 14 persons who took daily doses of 0.5 gm. quinin, 12 had influenza, no milder than the average.
Mosse endeavored to solve the question of the prophylactic immunization by quinin by experiment. He injected blood from influenza patients, or pure cultures of Pfeiffer's bacillus, into the vein of a rabbit's ear. One half of the animals experimented upon had a dose of quinin (0.05 gm.) intravenously injected, and the same quantity per os one half hour before the experiment was made. These animals remained well, whereas the animals that did not have quinin administered became ill. It is unfortunate for these experiments that even R. Pfeiffer himself has not been able to produce influenza in animals. The assumption that the animals were found immune when injected with influenza cultures, together with their toxins, in the experiments just mentioned, because the previous administration of quinin had rendered the toxins innocuous, and, as it were, neutralized them, rests upon so feeble a basis that we need not waste more words on it.
The a priori assumption that quinin, being a bactericidal agent, would diminish the virulence of the influenza bacillus and thus mitigate and shorten the course of the disease, gave rise to an extensive use of this remedy during the influenza epidemic of 1889 in France, and especially in Russia, where quinin became the popular panacea, as did with us antipyrin. The sale of quinin increased in St. Petersburg to an almost incredible extent (Heyfelder).
Opposed to those extolling quinin, viz., Rawlins (1833), Carriere,
Teissier, Gellie, Bubrulle, Briard, Pribram, and especially Graser, who speaks of its "specific action" in influenza, are van den Velden (1874), Eichhorst, Tranjen, and Bowie, who saw no good result from the remedy. We unhesitatingly agree with the latter. Quinin manifested its antipyretic properties in the fever of influenza, and influenced some neuralgias during the period of convalescence even more favorably than its modern competitors, but on the influenza process as such it had not the slightest effect. The results of our trials with quinin we summed up in the following words in 1890: "The cases treated with large doses of quinin have regularly felt more ill than those who have not been treated by quinin (increase of headache, etc.). Experience thus shows that as a prophylactic quinin is valueless."
Putting together the considerable material available from the official reports from the whole of Germany, P. Friedrich says that certain physicians praise the brilliant results obtained with quinin, while others were very much disappointed in this respect.
Treatment by purgation, which under the influence of the teachings of Brown during the influenza epidemic at the end of the eighteenth century attained a great reputation, also in our day found some few to praise it. Calomel in purgative doses (Schuster, Dumas) and large doses of castor oil (Sagorski, Mosler) were said to have an abbreviating influence on the attack of influenza. Really to prove this would not be easy.
It is only in the purely gastro intestinal form of influenza that laxatives and intestinal disinfectants, especially calomel, could possibly have an abortive action. That purgatives must be cautiously administered is self evident when we recollect the above mentioned severe hemorrhagic forms of influenzal enteritis. The advisability of giving a mild laxative at the onset of a disease in constipated patients is obvious.
A large number of medicaments and other materials were credited, purely empirically, with an effective or "specific" action in influenza.
To these belong ammonium chlorid, especially praised in France; furthermore, benzol, benzonaphthol, carbolic acid, creasote, creolin, turpentine, ichthyol, balsam of Peru, cinnamic acid, tannin, potassium iodid, corrosive sublimate, double chlorid of gold and sodium, sulphid of calcium, sulphocarbolate of sodium, carbonate of potassium, aconite, gelsemium, tinctura cardui Mariae, etc.
For credulous therapeutic optimists, disposed to consider all favorable terminations of disease in the light of post hoc ergo propter hoc, influenza was an excellent case, since the enormous majority of attacks terminate favorably and spontaneously in a few days.
The most fortunate are the "homeopaths"; for here too, as in every other disease, or for every symptom of the disease, they possess also for influenza a specific infallible remedy. We do not begrudge them their wonderful recoveries any more than we do their companions, "the nature doctors," "magnetopaths," etc. The supporters of Kneipp, of course, praise their water douches and their adjuncts, camomile tea and Kneipp coffee; the vegetarians commend their diet; the adherents of Jaeger, their woolen clothing-as the safest protection or remedy against influenza. Voices have also been raised for the use of suggestion and hypnosis in the treatment of influenza.
There is neither a prophylactic nor a specific for influenza. The hope that some day it may be possible to immunize, by preventive inoculation with a future "influenza serum" on the approach of an influenza epidemic, and to treat the patients in a truly specific manner, is to day no mere fantastic speculation, although it must be admitted that such hopes, especially as regards influenza, must be deemed very remote, if only for the reason that influenza is a disease which arouses interest often only at intervals of several decads.