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December 9, 1983

The Historical Role of the Dick Test

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Medicine, Boston University School of Medicine.

JAMA. 1983;250(22):3097-3099. doi:10.1001/jama.1983.03340220065040

The contemporary medical student who reads in 1983 the brief JAMA article that was written by the Dicks1 some 60 years ago could well wonder why it was selected by the current editors of The Journal as a historical highlight of modern medicine. After all, scarlet fever is now a relatively rare and not serious disease. It is no more dangerous an affliction than is a nonscarlatinal streptococcal infection of comparable severity. Indeed, the scarlatinal rash actually may be diagnostically helpful in signaling the cause of an acute pharyngitis or, indeed, in flagging an outbreak of such infections. With the advent of antibiotics, this erstwhile feared and dramatic disease has been dropped almost universally from the list of quarantinable contagious diseases by local health authorities. The rash that is produced by the streptococcal erythrogenic toxin is now likely to be regarded as a clinical curiosity of some theoretical interest