Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Heliotherapy!

It's a beautiful, warm, sunny day here in Portland, Oregon--and in May, definitely a cause for celebration (preferably outdoors).

How fitting, then, that today I should have received a patron question about the use of sunlight for treatment of tuberculosis in the late nineteenth century. An article in the March 24, 2006, issue of Science on a link between Vitamin D and the human antimicrobial response included the note that: "These findings also provide new insight into the history of tuberculosis treatment, including the importance of sunlight in the sanatorium movement created by Brehmer and Trudeau, and the award of the 1903 Nobel Prize for Medicine to Niels Ryberg Finsen for demonstrating that UV light was beneficial to patients with lupus vulgaris, tuberculosis of the skin, consistent with the importance of Vitamin D in all forms of tuberculosis...."

The patron's question concerned the work of Hermann Gustav Brehmer and Edward Livingston Trudeau, both of whom had contracted TB and subsequently been cured through what they believed was exposure to a healthy environment. Brehmer went on to establish the first TB sanatorium in Silesia in 1859; Trudeau largely modeled his Adirondack Cottage Sanatorium on Brehmer's model. While the value of sanatoria in the treatment of TB is still being debated, the value of light therapy for certain conditions has been well documented.

So, get out there and enjoy the sunshine!

(The miscellaneous fact of the day, gleaned on the search for information about Brehmer and Trudeau, is that E.L. Trudeau is indeed the grandfather of cartoonist Gary Trudeau, author of the Doonesbury comic strip. Become a librarian--learn something new every day!)

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