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March 11, 1905


JAMA. 1905;XLIV(10):793. doi:10.1001/jama.1905.92500370041002a

The word toxin has acquired a special significance in pathology. According to Ehrlich toxins are distinguished by the following properties:

Ehrlich's Conception of Toxins.  1. They are extremely labile substances which occur as secretion products of vegetable or of animal organisms.2. The impossibility of obtaining toxins in a perfectly pure form and their great lability have made impossible a knowledge of their exact chemical nature.3. An analysis of a toxin may be reached at present only through the medium of animal experiments.4. Immunization with toxins yields antitoxins. It has not been possible to obtain antitoxins for inorganic poisons, glucosids and alkaloids (morphin, strychnin, etc.).5. In contrast to well-defined chemical poisons, the action of toxins is characterized by a latent or incubation period. That is, following the injection of a toxin, a certain period of time elapses before toxic symptoms appear, and this period is