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Year of Discovery: 1968
His Early Research Paved the Way for A Practical Treatment for Cholera
Phillips may have been doing what came naturally when he did his groundbreaking research. Both his father and his uncle were physicians. The two were partners in a medical practice, consisting of a clinic and a small hospital, which adjoined Phillips' boyhood home in Clear Lake, Iowa. Combining this rich medical tradition with a keen mind, Phillips was perfectly prepared to tackle the complexities of cholera. Phillips saw the futility of intravenous (IV) therapy. Though IV therapy was the only method available to rehydrate cholera patients, it was costly and required a clinical setting. Phillips' early experiments with Oral Rehydration Therapy (ORT) proved the ability of glucose to be absorbed within the gut of cholera patients - and, though he would minimize this detail in his reporting, to enhance sodium absorption. Glucose became a key component of ORT, and Phillips' early work set the stage for the full development of ORT as the simple, cost-effective, standard treatment of cholera worldwide.
Cholera is a deadly disease that spread from the Ganges delta in India in the 1800s to the rest of the world. It has been responsible for seven pandemics worldwide, resulting in millions of deaths. One of the primary means by which it kills is dehydration, as a result of severe diarrhea and vomiting. In fact, cholera can take someone's life in as little as four hours following onset of symptoms. Undeveloped nations are particularly at risk, as lack of pure drinking water combined with inadequate sanitation facilities allows the disease to spread rapidly.
Introduction by Tim Anderson
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