Tribute to Edward C. Rosenow (1875-1966) by Stuart Hale Shakman
Tribute to Edward C. Rosenow (1875-1966)
by S. H. Shakman - Copyright 1996-8, all rights reserved.

The monumental works of Rosenow ... have reversed the opinions of the highest medical authority of the world and thrown to earth the false theories of older medicine ...
- - C.H. Pierce, 1915 [*1]

[Dr. Rosenow] was adept at ... reproducing the clinical syndromes of the patients in animals. ... the resemblance of syndromes [was] often unbelievable and at times almost ludicrous ... he prepared autogenous vaccines that worked miracles in innumerable patients.
- - Rowntree, Leonard G., 1958 [*2]

Pierce's 1915 glowing assessment of Dr. Edward C. Rosenow (then age 40) was by no means an isolated view. By this time Dr. Rosenow was generally regarded in prominent medical circles as among the most brilliant of modern scientists. From this already-lofty positon, he went on to serve as head of experimental bacteriology for the Mayo Foundation for nearly three decades, from 1915 to 1944.

Dr. Rosenow's consistent and well-documented published works, nearly 300 articles spanning the period from 1902 through 1958, built upon two venerable medical concepts: (a) the concept of oral focal infection, whereby distant and/or generalized diseases have been attributed to the dissemination of microorganisms or their toxins through the bloodstream from an oral "focus" or reservoir; and (b) the ability or perhaps even tendency of microorganisms to exist in different phases as a result of dissociation or mutation, depending on environmental conditions. Dr. Rosenow's investigations consistently demonstrated the presence of specifically virulent nonhemolytic streptococci within the oral focus, primarily in or around teeth and/or tonsils (often without visible symptoms of infection) [*3]; these organisms or their derivatives were directly and clearly implicated in a wide range of diseases [*4] - from arthritis to schizophrenia, and even including disease of "blood- building tissues" [*5] The key to the success of Dr. Rosenow's investigations was the use of a laboriously-developed methodology that most significantly correctly mimmicked conditions existing within the human body, particularly involving a range of oxygen supply, rather than the customary reliance on strictly "anaerobic" (zero oxygen) or "aerobic" (as in the air) conditions.

The manner in which Dr. Rosenow integrated and refined these concepts into an understanding of a wide range of diseases may even come to be recognized as the high point of 20th century medicine, although his legacy is currently obscure or even maligned. Surprisingly, this has occurred despite the association of Dr. Rosenow with some of the most prominent names in American medical history. Early in his career, Dr. Rosenow worked closely with Frank Billings and Charles H. Mayo, both former AMA Presidents and staunch advocates of the concept of oral focal infection as a key factor in systemic disease. And another former AMA President, Walter Bierring, predicted in 1938, "perchance it is safe to assume that the 'Rosenow heresy' may yet become the medical guide of the future". [*6] Moreover, some 38 of Dr. Rosenow's own published articles appeared in the authoritative Journal of the American Medical Association.

(Even before Dr. Rosenow was born, an earlier AMA president, Austin Flint, had noted in 1868 that caries of the teeth are at least an occasional cause of trigeminal neuralgia [*7] - which same condition has recently been discussed as associated with cavitations in bone from which devitalized teeth have been removed. [*8]

As to why Dr. Rosenow's work has faded from the medical limelight, this in so small part seems attributable to a clearly fraudulent misrepresentation of his research results [*9] by W. Holman in 1928 [*10]. Over the next couple of decades, Holman's (incorrect) 1928 protrayal came to serve as the indispensable foundational citation for a body of incestuously cross-referenced literature [*11] which confronted Dr. Rosenow's otherwise unassailable work. This body of contrary literature continues to underly and influence modern medical and dental attitudes, theory and practice, establishing Holman's deception as probably the grandest fraud in the history of medicine, if not science.

Nonetheless, the concepts of focal infection [*12], mutation [*13] and dissociation [*14], and the use of reduced oxygen gradients [*15] are separately being promoted in modern medical research, providing measures of independent validation of the foundations of Dr. Rosenow's prior, integrated studies and methodology.

Dr. Rosenow emphasized two primary points relative to the therapy of a wide-range of diseases:

(a) Removal of the oral focus. [*3] Dr. Rosenow demonstrated that the oral focus, usually in or around diseased or non-vital teeth [*4,*16] and/or (secondarily) tonsils [*17] is the primary site of replication and dissemination, and even for the acquisition of their specificity and strength [*18]. But he and others have cautioned that removal of the focus cannot be expected to always result in a cure, insofar as a secondary infection elsewhere in the body may have already become sufficiently established so as to be able to sustain the infective process even in the absence of the primary (oral) focus; and

(b) Administration of specific therapeutic antigen (vaccine) or antibody, or both, preferably autogenous (generated from organisms taken from the patient). [*19]In some of his later articles, Dr. Rosenow set forth a therapeutical regimen discussing only the administration of antigen and antibody without specific reference to oral foci; however, it was noted that this therapy would need to be continued indefinitely, presumably due to the continued presence of foci (reservoirs) of infection. Thus the importance of their removal in conjunction with vaccine-therapy [*3], as had been consistently and strongly emphasized by Dr. Rosenow, would appear to continue to warrant primary consideration.

Dr. Rosenow's instructions relating to the isolation, cultivation and preservation, respectively, of properly-specific pathogenic organisms (streptococci) incorporate three essential technical components: use of serial dilutions [*20], oxygen gradients [*21], and glycerol-salt menstruum [*3]. These components and and other details of Dr. Rosenow's instructions for production of vaccine and antibody require close attention, insofar as strict compliance consistently achieved favorable results (whereas failures invariably have been associated with and apparently attributable to non-compilance).

Further major implications of the foregoing on some popular modern medical perspectives include characterization of the concept of "animal models" as intrinsically flawed, as evident in its being at variance with the venerable Koch-Henle postulates of disease causation; reaffirmation of the validity of the Koch- Henle tradition; the essential complementarian compatibility of the Rosenow perspective with modern emphases on genetics, and exposure of the concept of "autoimmune disease" as fictional and superfluous.

- Animal Models. Nowadays, much fanfare accompanies the discovery of new "animal models" in which diseases that resemble those in man can be induced and studied. These "models" by definition do not involve the identical disease processes, but rather processes which mimic the real ones. In light of Dr. Rosenow's work, it would appear that the failure of modern practitioners to replicate many human diseases in laboratory animals simply indicates that they have the wrong organism, or a wrong or degenerative phase of the correct one. In contrast, Dr. Rosenow marvelled at how similar were the tissues of persons and animals. He readily replicated a wide range of disease conditions in laboratory animals using bacteria from patients suffering from these same diseases.

- Koch-Henle postulates of disease. Insofar as the Koch-Henle postulates require replication of diseases in laboratory animals with the suspected disease-causing agent, a revival of Dr. Rosenow's methodology brings with it a reaffirmation of these venerable postulates. Moreover, Dr. Rosenow's work went far beyond merely fulfilling the venerable Koch-Henle postulates. [*5]

- The relative role of genetics. Modern perspectives generally recognize that the genetic factor is essentially a predisposition and does not itself cause disease, but that some undisclosed environmental factor triggers the actual onset of disease. Similarly, Dr. Rosenow discussed both onset and identity of disease conditions as attributable to a combination of (a) infection by microorganisms and (b) "constitutional" or inherited predisposition. Thus, Dr. Rosenow's successful therapeutic regimens would at a minimum be expected to be complementary to gene therapy, and particularly attractive in light of the acknowledged general failure of gene therapy thus far [*22] to produce beneficial results.

- The concept of "autoimmune disease". In the second half of the 20th century (coincident with Dr. Rosenow's residence in semi- obscurity), "autoimmune" processes were proposed to be causing many disease conditions for which a foreign cause presumably could not be identified; however, it has since been generally recognized that this so-called "autoimmune reaction" may be a result and not the cause of a diseased state [*23], and that the onset of "autoimmune disease" may be "triggered by unknown environmental factors acting on a predisposing genetic background" [*24]. In that Dr. Rosenow's successful methodology consistently enabled identification of specific microbial pathogens in these same conditions, the very need for an "autoimmune disease" concept may well be questioned.

- Beyond considerations of "normal" diseases, such as appendicitis, arthritis, asthma, etc., it is noted that Dr. Rosenow's scope encompassed numerous other conditions including alcoholism, infertility, mental illness and even violent criminality; and he long ago had anticipated (and solved in advance) the contemporary dilemna of "post-polio syndrome" [*25]. He also probed far-ranging disease-related topics such as the role of radiant energy in seasonality of various diseases and epidemics [*26].

Overall, Dr. Rosenow's monumental body of work appears to have much to offer in relation to attaining an understanding of cause, prevention and therapy of a wide range of human disease conditions. The broad scope and immediate specific impact of Dr. Rosenow's work argue for its priority re-integration into modern medical and dental education and practice.


This article is an electronic preprint of a paper to be proposed to the Journal of Infectious Disease, in which journal Dr. Rosenow published some 53 articles spanning the period 1904-1945.

Postscript: Insofar as Dr. Rosenow has demonstrated that the causative agent for a wide range of diseases is disseminated through the bloodstream [*21, *27], the use of autohemotherapy is suggested for consideration as a temporary therapeutic expedient, pending the development and general availability of Dr. Rosenow's specific vaccines. It is further noted that numerous disease conditions have been addressed in the historical literature of both autohemotherapy and Dr. Rosenow [*28].


Copyright 1996 S H Shakman. All rights reserved.