War and infection in the pre-antibiotic era: the Third Ottoman Army in 1915.


BACKGROUND The aim of this study, which evaluated historical data, was to delineate the probable impacts of infectious diseases on human populations under extraordinary circumstances. The second goal was to disclose the mortality rates for infectious diseases in the absence of antibiotics. METHODS The Third Ottoman Army records at the Turkish General Staff Military History and Strategic Study Directorate were studied retrospectively for the period between March 1915 and February 1916. RESULTS For the Third Ottoman Army, the number of infection-related deaths over the single-year period was 23,601. Malaria, relapsing fever and dysentery were the most common infections. In that pre-antibiotic era, the highest mortality rates were seen for cholera (80%), pulmonary tuberculosis (58%) and typhoid fever (51%). However, typhus had the maximum share in soldier deaths (6053 soldiers). The rate of vector-borne infections peaked in the summer of 1915, while the frequency of respiratory tract infections was highest in the colder months. In contrast, gastrointestinal tract infections appeared to maintain a steady state throughout the year. CONCLUSIONS If the wartime data for 1915 are accepted to provide a model for extraordinary circumstances in the 21st century, vector-borne, respiratory tract and gastrointestinal infections can be accepted as the challenging issues with significant mortality.

DOI: 10.3109/00365548.2011.577801
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@article{Erdem2011WarAI, title={War and infection in the pre-antibiotic era: the Third Ottoman Army in 1915.}, author={Hakan Erdem and Ahmet Tetik and Ozgur Arun and Bulent Ahmet Beşirbellioglu and Omer Coşkun and Can Polat Eyigun}, journal={Scandinavian journal of infectious diseases}, year={2011}, volume={43 9}, pages={690-5} }