Should You Take Oscillococcinum to Treat Respiratory Infections Like Influenza?

The story and evidence behind a well-marketed but ineffective remedy for a deadly disease.

René F. Najera, MPH, DrPH
Microbial Instincts

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An antique wooden box containing multiple small glass vials with cork stoppers, each labeled with various substances in faded text, likely representing an old apothecary or medical collection.
“Old homeopathic pills in museum in Admont (Austria)” (Photo by Zdeněk Macháček on Unsplash)

The year is 1918, and the world is going through a large influenza pandemic. The first cases were detected in the United States, somewhere in Kansas. But the mobilization of American troops toward the end of the First World War sent the virus into the world. By the time the pandemic ended in the early 1920s, millions were dead.

The world would never be the same in different ways. The pandemic sped up research into infectious diseases. Since the 1890s, scientists knew that something infectious existed in material passed through a filter. That material did not grow bacteria, and none were seen through the light microscopes at the time. Martinus Beijerinck proposed the name “virus” for the infectious material, and the theory from then until the 1930s was that viruses were fluids or chemicals of some sort.

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René F. Najera, MPH, DrPH
Microbial Instincts

DrPH in Epidemiology. Public Health Instructor. Father. Husband. "All around great guy."