The superbugs are among us. Should we return to the use of sanatoria?
By Marc Sorenson, EdD
First of all, one should know that sanatoria are secluded hospitals. In addition, they usually specialize in healing through good food, fresh air and sunlight. Some scientists are now suggesting that we reestablish the use of sanatoria for healing. They feel that sanatoria may be just the answer we seek for the prevention and healing of infectious diseases.
Interestingly, sanatoria were used effectively in the early 20th century (before antibiotics) and were really large outdoor solariums (sunrooms). These facilities allowed patients to be in natural surroundings, and in some cases, to expose themselves to direct sunlight. To demonstrate the efficacy of these facilities in curing tuberculosis (TB), consider the following history of Dr. Aguste Rollier:
Should we use sanatoria for healing TB?
First of all, records of 1,129 TB cases showed solariums cured 87% of “closed cases” and 76% of “open cases. “Among 158 patients with tuberculosis of the hip, 125 were cured and 102 “regained complete recovery of articular function.” Dr. Rollier also had other successes. “During a time just following World War I, 1,746 of 2,167 tubercular patients under his care completely recovered. Furthermore, the only failures were among those who had allowed their tuberculosis to enter its most advanced stages.”
Superbugs arrive from Peru.
In 2009, the first case of drug-resistant TB arrived in the US from Peru. It was nearly 100% resistant to antibiotics. Consequently, it could cause an immense killer epidemic with the return of TB. There seems to be no answer to the “superbug” causing it. Or is there an answer? Could the sun provide a solution to this health threat? The superbugs are upon us like a bad horror movie. When they start to take over the earth, there will be few cures. But, UV light from the sun, or sun lamps, are remedies that still exist. Therefore, we would be well-advised to have our defenses set up in advance by enjoying daily sun exposure.
Another more recent historical perspective regarding sanatoria and sun exposure.
I recently happened across research that should be of interest to those who love the Sun. It gave a historical perspective of TB in the city of Bern, Switzerland. In addition, it showed how Bern wiped out most of its TB problems. Especially relevant is the fact that the city used lifestyle changes, not drugs. And, those changes included greater access to sun exposure. The authors studied TB incidence during the period from 1856-1950. There were three areas of the city assessed for their historical TB problems. One was known as the Black Quarter, where during 1911-1915 there were 550 cases of TB per 100,000 people. The second was the City Center with 327 cases per 100,000 people. The third area was the Outskirts, with 209 cases per 100,000 people. There were three living conditions correlating closely to TB:
- The number of persons per room. A higher number predicted a greater risk of TB.
- A greater number of rooms without sunlight predicted a greater risk of TB.
- A greater number of windows per apartment predicted a diminished risk of TB
Consequently, the country worked to address these problems by reducing room crowding, providing open-air schools and building sanatoria. As a result, TB risk dropped from 330 cases per 100,000 in 1856 to 33 per 100,000 in 1950—a 90% drop! Also, I expect that health care cost dramatically decreased.
With the superbugs gaining strength each year, maybe we should reestablish the use of sanatoria?
Another thought: sun exposure probably works as well with many other diseases as it does with TB. Hence, the day may come when sanatoria, especially solariums, may be the only choice for curing infections. Finally, why not sunbathe daily in a non-burning fashion? In addition, sunlamps (in the absence of sunny days) could be valuable to the the health, because they also produce some of the same types of healing light (UVB and UBA) as the sun. Safely and regularly embrace the sun to protect your health!
 Greenhalgh I, Butler AR. Sanatoria revisited. Sunlight and health. J R Coll Physicians Edinb. 2017;47(3):276-280.
 Clark, W. Treatment of Bone and joint tuberculosis with Tuberculin and Heliotherapy. Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery 1923;5:721-39.
 Fielder, J. Heliotherapy: the principles & practice of sunbathing. Soil and Health Library (online) http://www.soilandhealth.org/index.html
 Zürcher K, Ballif M, Zwahlen M, Rieder HL, Egger M, Fenner L. Tuberculosis Mortality and Living Conditions in Bern, Switzerland, 1856-1950. PLoS One. 2016 16;11(2):e0149195