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JAMA 100 Years Ago
June 26, 2013


Author Affiliations

JAMA 100 Years Ago Section Editor: Jennifer Reiling, Assistant Editor.

JAMA. 2013;309(24):2525. doi:10.1001/jama.2012.174902

While the curative treatment of diphtheria with diphtheria antitoxin constitutes one of the great triumphs of modern medicine, our present methods of prevention of diphtheria are admittedly far from satisfactory. Diphtheria antitoxin acts by neutralizing the toxin which causes the principal effects of infection with diphtheria bacilli and in the meantime the bacilli are destroyed more or less successfully by the usual means of defense against invading bacteria. But the use of diphtheria antitoxin for preventive purposes is not a practical success because the antitoxin is eliminated too rapidly, as it is part and parcel of the proteins of a foreign serum which are soon destroyed when introduced into the human body. For this reason the passive immunity from diphtheria antitoxin in horse-serum lasts from two to three weeks only. Under ordinary conditions the frequent injection of antitoxic serum for this purpose is not practicable for several and obvious reasons.